“You try to do something nice for someone, and look what happens,” the embattled governor told reporters at a press conference during which he unveiled a birthday cake for Fitzgerald.
“People get wind of it, so you try to cover up the big party you planned, then things get out of hand and the story ends up involving a children’s hospital, threats to the Tribune, and a half-million-dollar bribe. Next thing you know, you’re getting investigated by the very person you wanted to do something nice for! Pat, I’m sorry your birthday surprise was spoiled.”
* 1:13 pm - The trial is set to reconvene at around 1:15 pm. They were late reconvening yesterday, but Chief Justice Fitzgerald promised a more prompt timeline today.
* 1:16 pm - They’re now reconvening.
Either Gov. Blagojevich is misstating the rules governing his Senate impeachment trial or doesn’t understand them and should come to Springfield to mount a serious defense, Senate President John Cullerton said today.
“I don’t know of any impeachment trial in history where the one who was accused didn’t show up to defend himself. I once again urge him to do so,” the Democrat from Chicago’s North Side told reporters after the Senate broke for lunch today. […]
“If the governor is saying that he can’t come here and testify, that’s not true. If he’s saying he can’t voluntarily bring witnesses, that’s not true. If he’s saying he can’t subpoena certain witnesses, that is true because of the request of the U.S. attorney,” Cullerton said. “But he could bring in other evidence if he wanted to, public records those witnesses have made in the past.
* 1:37 pm - The tape on the horseracing bill is coming up very soon.
* 1:42 pm - Here it comes. Transcripts are being passed out as tape is played.
Rob Blagojevich (governor’s brother and fundraising chairman): He’s gonna give you… ya know, he didn’t get it. But he said, ya know, I’m good for it. I gotta just decide what, what uh, accounts to get it out of. And Lon’s going to talk to you about some senitivities legislatively tonight when he sees you. With regard to the timing of this.
RRB: Right - before the end of the year though, right? (The end of the year is the end of the campaign finace period.)
* Tape 2 has a tapped phone conversation between Lon Monk and Johnnie Johnston, the racetrack official targeted for the strong arm. It’s dated December 3rd, more than three weeks after the above conversation where Rob Blagojevich told the governor that the contribution was imminent. Monk simply tells Johnston that he’s going to meet him at the track in 45 minutes.
* Tape 3 was recorded a couple of hours after the above phone conversation.
It’s between Lon Monk and Gov. Blagojevich. Monk tells Blagojevich that he talked to the track official about the “commitment.” Monk tells the governor that the official says he has to leave town for two weeks and knows he wants the contribution in hand at the end of those two weeks.
Monk claims he told the official that there’s “some skittishness” about the timeliness of the bill signing and the “commitment” (the contribution). Johnston, Monk says, asked if he wanted the “commitment” broken up so that some was given in the “next quarter.” Monk says he told Johnston no. “My point is that this has all gotta be in now.” Johnston, Monk claims to Blagojevich, hopes to have it next week.
Monk tells Blagojevich that the reason the meeting took so long was that “Billy” came in and started talking about various things “and I didn’t want to have that conversation in front of Billy,” Monk explains, basically admitting that this was not a conversation that could be shared with anyone else. “Good job,” the governor says.
* Tape 4 was recorded the following morning. This is also a conversation between Monk and Gov. Blagojevich. Monk suggests that the governor call Johnston himself. The governor says “Okay.”
“It’s better if you do it just from a pressure point of view,” Monk tells the governor.
“Yeah, good,” Blagojevich says, who then suggests that he’ll suggest holding an event downstate and start picking some dates for the bill signing, which he says the chances are good that it’ll happen the following week.
* Most of this stuff is already in the original complaint, but then there’s this strange exchange that has never before been released. Blagojevich talks about Johnston’s skittishness regarding the contribution…
BLAGOJEVICH: I feel like there’s somebody else who’s holding him (Johnston) back.
BLAGOJEVICH: I believe it’s Chris. [Chris Kelly, perhaps?]
MONK: No, no.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well that took, you know a whole year. You know what I mean? Hey Lon…
MONK: No, I don’t think he’s been talking to Chris… I don’t think he’s been talking to Chris.
If the person being referred to on the tape is Kelly — who was mentioned repeatedly during last year’s corruption trial of Tony Rezko — it raises the possibility of dissension in the ranks of Blagojevich’s fund-raising operation. Blagojevich has maintained that Kelly is one of his closest friends.
It’s also possible that the governor thought that Kelly had gone to the other side (meaning the G).
* 2:56 pm - They’re back. Replaying the tapes.
* 3:03 pm - Lots of questions, the Chief Justice says, and reminds members that the witness is under restrictions about what sort of questions he can answer.
Sen. Demuzio: What info or persons led you to ask for a wiretap? Why were the taps ordered in October? Answer from US Attorney’s office: Legal restrictions prevent response, as well as the rules of engagement on what info the FBI agent can offer.
Sen. Watson: Are there any current investigations of Gov. Blagojevich? Answer: Can’t answer.
Looks like we’re going to see lots of these sorts of questions that are outside the scope of allowable testimony and the same response.
Sen. Gary Dahl: Are there members of this tribunal on the wiretaps? My favorite question so far. But there was no answer. lol
In New York, the Governor continued his media blitz and said those snippets of his voice were taken out of context.
* 3:17 pm - Now we’re getting into more political games. Knowing full well that the FBI wouldn’t answer the question, the Senate GOP asked if US Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is on the tapes.
While this drones on as Senators ask questions that they should have known are outside the scope of the FBI agent’s authorized testimony, let’s check in with the Twitter page run by the governor’s public relations agency, shall we?
Gov to the people of Illinois: ‘I did not let you down’
Gov sees his own name on crawl over Today show set… Comments on it.
I gotta wonder if that fancy schmancy Twittering comes with the standard flak package or if it’s an add-on “premium service” type thingy.
* I can’t possibly see how he can wait until after he’s removed from office to challenge the impeachment process, particuarly since he boycotted the Senate trial, but the AP just ran this story…
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he hasn’t ruled out legal action if he is removed from office.
Blagojevich told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would respect “the law and the Constitution and the rules” if legislators vote him out of office. But he’ll explore his legal options.
The Democrat says he knows he soon could be out of a job but says he didn’t do anything wrong.
Note to all reporters: Gov. Rod Blagojevich lies about almost everything. Everyone in Illinois has had to learn that lesson the hard way. Take it from us, stop taking him at his word.
*** UPDATE 1 *** This video clip proves my point about the governor’s constant lying. On CBS this morning, the governor said…
“If I had a judicial remedy, I would’ve been there a long time ago, but unfortunately I don’t.”
Watch the video…
Actually, that’s a lie as well. As I’ve already told you, Ed Genson was preparing a case which he wanted to bring to the Illinois Supreme Court, but was nixed by Sam Adam, Jr. and Rod Blagojevich.
Also, as I told subscribers this morning, Blagojevich could’ve attended the Senate’s public committee hearings which put together the trial rules and attempted to put his stamp on the process. He chose not to, for whatever reasons.
“The governor is making a mockery of the law, he’s making a mockery of the constitution,” Madigan said. “The whole concept of impeachment has been enshrined in not just Illinois law, but in federal law, from the beginning of our country. It’s talked about in the Federalist Papers, and so for him to claim he’s not going to get any kind of a fair trial and fair process is absolutely absurd.”
“He’s choosing to not participate, that’s something completely different than not availing yourself of a process and so in some ways, it’s almost admitting that he has nothing to say in his defense, despite what he’s saying on all these talk shows.”
By admitting on CBS that he had no constitutional recourse to block impeachment and removal, he is admitting that all of his teevee arguments about the Senate’s unconstitutional rules are flat-out bogus. By refusing to appear at the trial, he’s admitting his own guilt.
With senators prohibited from speechmaking during the trial, Hendon used the only means at his disposal — an opportunity to submit written questions through Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald — to make known his displeasure with aspects of the impeachment case against Blagojevich.
In particular, Hendon is upset that senators are being asked to impeach Blagojevich in part on policy matters on which they previously supported the governor: expanding health care for children, creating a prescription drug program for seniors and procuring flu vaccines from outside the U.S.
“Is giving health care to children an impeachable offense, or does it fall under executive privilege?” Hendon asked House prosecutor David Ellis.
Hendon said he and other Democratic senators, then under the leadership of retired Senate President Emil Jones, backed Blagojevich on those programs, even after he implemented them over the objections of the Illinois House, and that to turn against him now on those matters would be hypocritical.
“How can I kick the governor out of office over that when we supported it?” Hendon told me in an interview after the Senate adjourned for the day. […]
Hendon said other senators share his concerns but are afraid to be vocal about it in the current political climate.
Hendon said he thought US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was doing a great job and he wouldn’t object to any of those items being included. Overall, Hendon has a point about some of the more minor impeachment issues.
However, and this is important to keep in mind, the sole article of impeachment concludes that the evidence in its totality points directly to a pattern of abuse of power. Senators don’t have to agree on every single claim in the impeachment report. All they have to do is decide whether they believe the governor has abused his powers of office sufficiently to remove him.
* I’ve seen comments here and bloviating elsewhere that what Rod Blagojevich is doing with his national media blitz is an ingenious plan to help himself with his criminal trial by influencing the jury pool. I’m not buying it. The explanation is too simplistic. Besides, George Ryan commuted how many death sentences and his jury did what? Exactly.
“Given that he doesn’t know all the evidence against him, there’s tremendous risk in what he’s doing,” said Levin, who prosecuted ex-Gov. George Ryan. “Some of the statements . . . might fit nicely into the theories [prosecutors] are laying out.”
Prosecutors are likely recording every word out of the governor’s mouth, Levin said.
“No defense attorney in his right mind would sanction this campaign,” defense lawyer Ron Safer said. “It’s a horrible, horrible idea.”
Safer said Blagojevich’s words on television will come across differently in the sterile environment of federal court — especially when jurors will also hear secret profanity-laced FBI recordings of the governor.
“No matter how innocent you think the statements are. No matter how good it feels,” Safer said, “it’s a bad idea, and apparently intolerable to one of the finest criminal lawyers I know.”
Powerhouse defense lawyer Ed Genson quit the case last week, in part over the media campaign.
TV interviews are likely to turn off future jurors, Safer said, adding: “A majority of jurors . . . would be deeply offended by someone who speaks like that over the telephone and then compares himself to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”
Not to mention that the trial is likely years away. Most of this week’s teevee insanity will be forgotten by potential jurors at that point.
Also, he’s probably doing far more harm to himself with his future judge than any good he might be doing with the jury pool.
As I told you earlier this week, Sam Adam, Jr. is running the show now, and it doesn’t appear to me that he has any idea what he’s doing.
* I am wondering whether something like this might be in the offing before he’s removed from office, however…
Afraid their appeals will fall on deaf ears if Gov. Rod Blagojevich is ousted, several relatives of victims tortured by former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge paid a visit to the governor’s office to ask for pardons.
The impeached governor was not at his office today. Instead he was making national media rounds in New York. Blagojevich was scheduled to appear before the state Senate in his impeachment trial that began today.
Jo Ann Patterson made the trip to the embattled Blagojevich’s office to deliver a letter requesting that he pardon the many victims who were allegedly tortured into confessions by way of beatings and electric shocks by Burge and detectives under his command.
She fears if Blagojevich is convicted by the Senate, the requested pardons won’t have a chance.
Any other predictions about what the governor could do before he’s removed?
* The trial begins at 10 o’clock. We’re supposed to hear excerpts from the FBI surveillance tapes today, which will hopefully shut more than a few traps once and for all. You can listen or watch here, or check CNN or others for live feeds.
* 10:09 am - I just put several more stories in the post directly below. There’s really no need to go over most of what was written yesterday since we already know what happened and talked about it for hours.
* 10:37 am - The Tribune has the governor’s media schedule for today…
7:00 a.m. CBS, Early Show
8:10 a.m. Fox & Friends
8:45 a.m. AP TV
10:30 a.m. Fox Business Network
11:15 a.m. In Session/TruTV
12:30 p.m. FOX, Glenn Beck
1:30 p.m. CNN, Campbell Brown
2:00 p.m. MSNBC, Rachel Maddow
2:30 p.m. FOX, Greta Van Susteren
3:30 p.m. CNN, DL Hughley
These are apparently recording times, since many of the above shows run at night.
* 11:58 am -Trial is recessed until 1:15 pm. The Democratic Senators will meet in Senate President Cullerton’s office.
* 12:14 pm - Mike has been covering the goings on in comments while I work on a couple of stories and keep an eye on the wires. Just about everything discussed this morning has been known for quite some time. However, this is from the Post-Dispatch…
[House Prosecutor David Ellis] is also asking about the issue of “voice identification,” seemingly to address any notion that Blagojevich might claim that wasn’t him on the tapes.
Ellis: “How did you positively identify the voice of the governor?”
Cain: “The governor is a very public figure. . . . so there is a certain voice recognition with that element alone. . . . At times he would self-identify.”
Everybody, calm down. This nightmare will soon be over.
I try to avoid cable TV news shows, but I tuned in this week to watch some of the talking heads grossly overreact to reports that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald won’t cooperate much with the General Assembly’s attempt to remove Gov. Blagojevich from office.
The talking heads were babbling wildly over whether that meant Blagojevich might remain in office for the rest of his term.
Not a chance.
One of those bobbleheads in question was the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, who claimed back then that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s refusal to allow the House impeachment committee to take testimony from people referenced in the criminal complaint against the governor would doom the impeachment proceedings.
Nevermind the fact that everybody in Illinois politics already knew that Fitzgerald wouldn’t cooperate. And nevermind the fact that there was already plenty of material to use against Blagojevich in the impeachment without Fitz’s cooperation. Robinson believed that this development was dramatically important.
Robinson obviously had no idea what he was talking about, and it boggled my mind that the program’s producers would allow him to drone on and on, even though he was so clearly and thoroughly clueless.
* But, today, it’s even worse. Robinson has another goofy theory that he peddled in the allegedly esteemed pages of the Washington Post…
Is Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about to be impeached on grounds of loopiness, obnoxiousness and a bad haircut? Apparently so. In defense of the Illinois state senators who seem to have already decided the governor’s fate, however, the haircut really does border on the criminal.
But it is unclear to me what else Blagojevich has done that a duly constituted jury would find illegal. Even in the matter of his menacing mop, at worst he’s a co-conspirator in a dastardly act committed by his barber.
Robinson goes on like that for several more paragraphs, selectively quoting from the criminal case and knocking down red herrings that he dutifully drags in front of his readers. The governor is not being impeached because of “loopiness, obnoxiousness and a bad haircut,” he’s being impeached because innumerable actions he has made as governor are tantamount to an abuse of power egregious enough to warrant removal from office.
It is abundantly clear from reading Robinson’s column that he knows absolutely nothing of Blagojevich’s history, and cannot comprehend the charges against him.
As to the criminal complaint, the governor devised numerous alleged criminal schemes - not just related to the US Senate seat - and then ordered that they be carried out. Those orders would be crimes, Mr. Robinson.
I can’t wait until this is over so that the DC talking heads will finally turn their erroneous, fallacious and salacious attention to their own backyards.
Quinn wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give Illinois more time to put federally restricted funds back in their proper place.
Illinois faces the loss of $16 million in federal funds if it fails to restore $9.25 million to six funds that receive money from hunting and fishing licenses and related fees.
In a letter, Quinn asked the regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to give Illinois 90 more days to replace the money. Quinn said the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich makes it unlikely an appropriations bill will be signed before the February 2 deadline.
Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, who is turning out to be the state’s unheralded Cassandra, sees worse ahead. General funds appropriations are up $916 million, but that doesn’t include more hundreds of millions to pay required contributions to five state retirement systems. And don’t forget, we have to pay off that $1.4 billion in short-term loans.
* The program begins at 8 o’clock tonight. Blagojevich is on for a full hour. You can e-mail questions here. They’ll also be live-blogging the show at this link.
I fed some questions via a friend to King’s people over the weekend. We’ll see if they use any of them. Sawyer was a disappointment this morning. I should’ve taken my own advice and refused to cooperate.
I’m getting sicker by the minute it seems, so I’m going to take a brief nap. Stay nice to each other in comments, please. Thanks.
As if today’s Rod Blagojevich press blitz isn’t bizarre enough, a new wrinkle came from Geraldo Rivera’s interview, which was supposed to take place at 2pmET on FNC’s The Live Desk.
Instead, Geraldo was “sabotaged.” You see, Blago’s publicist is Glenn Selig, who also happens to be the publicist for Drew Peterson. Seriously. And, as Geraldo put it, “Drew Peterson is my arch-enemy.”
So, Rivera tracked down Blago in the parking lot of “The View” this morning after a last minute cancellation by Selig. He banged on the window until Blagojevich emerged, and Rivera asked, “What happened to our 2:00 interview?” Blagojevich responded: “I don’t know I just go where they tell me.”
Then the interview took place outside while other reporters tried to get in questions as well. As a bonus, Rivera interviewed Whoopi Goldberg.
…Adding… Afternoon news updates, compiled by Mike…
…While we’re waiting… In response to a question on the last trial thread, I don’t use “Cover It Live” as some are doing because: 1) It slows down my website even more; and 2) There’s no way to easily moderate comments. And I don’t live-blog on Twitter like others are doing because the idea is to bring people to this site, where my ads are (or where they will be soon).
* 2:06 pm - They’re back. The Chief Justice will not pose those questions, starting with the SDems’ questions, to the House Prosecutor. The CJ has asked that all potential witnesses please leave the chamber.
* 2:07 pm - First question from Sen. Garrett: Did the state Reps who were going to testify agree to step aside if FBI Agent Cain testified? Answer: Yes.
Question from Hendon: Isn’t the Kirk/Foster amendment hurt state’s creditworthiness [the amendment keeps Blagojevich away from the stimulus money]? Answer: I suppose it could. Question: Is this a political amendment to politicize the case against the governor? Answer: It is a political amendment. I’d submit that this is relevant because it inflicts damage on the state as a result of the governor’s actions.
The Republicans are now wanting to know why the Democratic Leader of the US Senate hasn’t been called to testify since he said he talked to the governor on the phone. Answer: That would likely be off-limits by the US Attorney, plus the person who is the best person to know is the governor, and he could come in to testify.
Question: No one is testifying on Item 13 of House report regarding hiring and firing practices? Why not? Why no testimony from Z Scott, the former executive inspector general? Answer: We did attempt to get Scott to testify, but we were also told that the research and drafting was a collaborative effort. We think the document is very detailed, well documented, but we don’t have a live witnesses who can make it any better than it already is.
Sen. Bill Brady: Why haven’t you asked for testimony about the Health Facilities Board from people like Kiefenbaum, Noonan, etc.? Answer: The US Attorney has asked us not to impede his investigation, and this topic would be in the complaint.
Sen. Hendon: Today, you amended charges to include additional evidence. Will there be more evidence, including exculpatory evidence? Answer: If there’s new exculpatory evidence, it’ll be in there.
GOP Question: Did you ask Kirk or Foster to testify about why they introduced their congressional amendment? Answer: Fact of the amendment is most relevant, not necessarily the motive.
Sen. Hendon: Is getting healthcare to children an impeachable offense or executive privilege? Asked how this differs from Nixon’s impeachable offense of bombing Cambodia. Answer: [essentially] Impeachable offense is in the eye of the beholder. We’re not talking health care per se, we’re talking about the process and separation of powers.
Hendon: I’ve never heard of just lumping everything together in one impeachment charge. Why did the House do that? Answer: There is precedent, going back to the early days of the republic. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was charged with a pattern of abuse of authority. There have been many instances of that. In our case, we felt like the evidence demonstrated a pattern of abuse, and it was the way decided to present the article of impeachment.
Hendon (againg): Andrew Johnson, 10 articles. Richard Nixon, 3 articles. Bill Clinton, 3 articles. By lumping all these together, isn’t the House restricting the Senate on what it can do? Would you be willing to separate them out into different categories? Answer: Senator will have to determine whether there is a pattern here. Also, I’m powerless to separate these out. It would also be frustrating the will of the House resolution. The House could’ve broken this up into pieces, but they went with the pattern of abuse.
Several of the questions from Republican senators suggest one of the undercurrents of the Blagojevich scandal — that the GOP is looking to pin the blame for corruption in the Democratic governor’s administration on the Democrats who control the legislature. Illinois Republicans suffered massive losses at the ballot box in the wake of the corruption scandal that sent the last governor — Republican George Ryan — to federal prison.
Sen. Hendon objects to unanimous consent, wants the question separated to vote separately on the Kirk/Foster motion.
They’re now voting on accepting the Kirk/Foster motion. The motion sought to include the amendment added to the stimulus bill to prevent the governor from directly controlling stimulus money.
48-11. Motion prevails to accept the Kirk/Foster motion.
They’ll now be voting on each motion individually. The next one is allowing Agent Cain to testify. 59-0. Don & Roma motion 59-0. Most, if not all, of the rest ought to pass unanimously. Oops. One just passed 57-2. Was distracted and didn’t hear what it was.
* 2:47 pm - Senate “at ease” for a few minutes for “chamber preparation.”
Some of the questions indicate that there are at least a few senators who are in Blagojevich’s corner.
I wouldn’t bet too much on that. Hendon will almost certainly be a “Yes” vote in the end. But he, and others, can’t avoid tweaking the House people a bit. In other words: Don’t read too much into that vote just yet.
Also, as the SJ-R points out, two Republicans voted “No” on one of the motions.
* 2:55 pm - House prosecutor’s opening statement. 30 minutes allotted. I won’t be putting all of his statements here, but will hit a few highlights.
The purpose of impeachment is “remedial,” not punishment. It’s to protect citizens of this state.
We will not attempt to prove the elements of any particular state or federal crime. What we will do is show you that the governor “repeatedly and utterly” abused the powers of his office.
Words from the governor’s own mouth will show that the governor put his office up for sale. Agent Cain will testify that all of the statements made are true and accurate.
The governor “actively plotted” to “obtain something of value” to fill the vacant seat.
The governor’s own words, “Be careful how you say things. Assume everybody was listening…” show he knew what he was doing was wrong.
“We will ask you to convict Gov. Blagojevich because of his own words,” not anyone else’s.
“The governor has betrayed the public trust, he has violated his public oath, he is no longer fit to governor, he should be removed from office.”
End of statement.
* 3:16 pm - The Chief Justice asked whether the governor or his counsel are present. No answer, of course. Chamber at ease for a few minutes.
* 3:24 pm - Witnesses are now being called. First is John Scully, a former federal prosecutor. Much of what he says has already been covered here.
Essentially, Scully’s role is to explain how thorough the US Attorney and FBI are, and how many roadblocks they have to clear when they want to wiretap a suspect.
* 4:03 pm - From the Daily Herald’s blog, here’s one excerpt from David Ellis’ opening argument…
“The evidence will show that these words went well beyond harmless chatter or idle speculation to active plotting to personally enrich himself in exchange for official acts that the governor might take.”
“These words at times may shock you. At times they will probably disgust you. These words will demonstrate a fundamental breach of the public trust. A violation of the governor’s oath. These words from the governor’s own mouth, not other people, not the actions of other people, not the words of other people, but from the governor’s own mouth will show that the governor put his office up for sale.”
* 4:09 pm - The Chief Justice just noted that since the goernor isn’t there, he can’t cross-examine witness Scully.
The Senate is again at ease while questions are written and submitted by Senators.
* 4:39 pm - And we’re back. There was an announcement that a question list had been submitted by the Senate Republicans.
Sen. Luechtefeld: Asked which recording devices were used on the governor. Answer: I don’t know because I wasn’t part of the investigation.
Scully: Of all the wiretaps I’ve ever been involved with, none have been found to be improper.
Lots of questions for Scully that have already been covered before.
Somebody just asked how bugs are planted in offices. Scully said even if he knew he couldn’t say, but that he didn’t know.
Scully has been excused. No redirect.
Recessed until tomorrow at 10 am. Chief Justice just said that the Senate President wishes to address the chamber and shouted “Please, be quiet!” lol
David Ellis: FBI Special Agent Dan Cain’s testimony will kick off tomorrow morning’s session, lasting past noon. Then Rep. Chapin Rose will testify, which will bring them to the end of the day.
* The governor isn’t the only one with delusions of grandeur…
Speaking this morning at a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, the state’s new junior U.S. senator, Roland Burris said that without Burris’ own trailblazing, Barack Obama never would have been elected president.
“If there was no Martin Luther King Jr. and no Roland Burris, there would be no Barack Obama in the White House today,” Burris said to cheers at a Rainbow PUSH Coalition breakfast in Chicago. “We must recognize, friends, that we all stand on each other’s shoulders.”
The Canadian supplier of low-cost drugs to a much-touted program by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has dropped out, bemoaning the state’s “lip service” to its promotion.
Pegasus Health Services filled its last I-SaveRx prescription Dec. 30. Company official Lewis Jorgenson says the program cost Pegasus hundreds of thousands of dollars and “nothing happened” to promote it.
As of last summer, only 5,000 Illinoisans had participated in the plan to get lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada.
* There will be no “Question of the Day” today because of the Senate Trial. I’ll be live-blogging because I caught a cold and I don’t feel up to dealing with the public. But please supplement my live-blogging in comments. The trial begins at noon today. You can listen or watch here. Others will carry the live feed, including WUIS radio.
Some things to chew on while we await the start of the trial…
The president of the Illinois Senate says he’s disappointed that Governor Rod Blagojevich won’t defend himself against impeachment.
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said Monday morning in Chicago that the governor’s strategy is befuddling, but he said the governor shouldn’t now be objecting to the trial rules.
Cullerton explains how the rules were devised by a state Senate committee which met on three occasions, twice on the 16th floor of the Thompson Center in Chicago, about 140 feet from the governor’s office. “No one from the governor’s office came to weigh in as to how these rules should be drafted,” Cullerton said.
* 12:31 pm - Ellis is now speaking about the four federal wiretap excerpts that a federal judge ordered released last week. “With your leave, we will play those tapes.” Ellis says the tapes are about five minutes long.
* The federal judge’s admonishment of Ed Genson over the authenticity and legality of the surveillance tapes are also part of Ellis’ motion.
* 12:36 pm - Ellis’ wiretap recordings motion is here. His Don & Roma motion is here.
* 12:40 PM - Another mention of the governor’s absence. The Senate Democrats and Republicans have requested a one-hour caucus to formulate questions (most likely to just approve questions already devised and debate a few more) for Prosecutor Ellis.
Recessed for an hour.
* 1:00 pm - Illinois Review is doing a good job of live-blogging.
A long-simmering dispute between Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers dramatically spilled out for everyone to see last week, with one claiming that no lawsuit would be filed to stop the Illinois Senate’s impeachment trial of the governor and another claiming a lawsuit was possible. It all culminated with the disastrous resignation of the governor’s top defense attorney, Ed Genson.
Insiders say Genson, the senior member of the governor’s legal team and a crack criminal defense attorney, had retained a high-priced lawyer from Boston who was an expert in impeachment issues. That attorney was preparing a case to be filed with the state Supreme Court this week to at least delay the Senate trial.
The ultimate goal reportedly was to force the Senate to agree to abandon the trial in exchange for the governor stepping aside and handing power over to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor would then still receive his paycheck until at least the end of the fiscal year, which ends in June, and would also likely retain some of his state police body guards.
But Sam Adam Jr., who has known Genson literally since the day he was born, reportedly convinced the governor to reject the idea.
Adam and Genson have been at odds for weeks, insiders claim. Adam was the governor’s emissary to Roland Burris regarding his U.S. Senate appointment. Genson had said in public the governor would not appoint a replacement for Barack Obama and privately told Adam he shouldn’t become involved in the ordeal.
Adam also reportedly convinced the governor to make the controversial decision to boycott the state Senate impeachment trial, apparently without consulting Genson in advance.
Blagojevich loves nothing more than people who agree with him, and Adam has reportedly played that role since signing on to the legal team in December. Genson, on the other hand, is accustomed to calling the shots for his clients. Genson hates nothing more than a client who won’t listen, and he apparently didn’t realize what he was getting into with Blagojevich. The governor is infamous for his refusal to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with whatever the voices in his head are saying at the moment.
The tension became so intolerable that Genson threatened to resign from the legal team entirely after Blagojevich made the decision this week to drop the carefully prepared court case against the impeachment trial and instead embark on an i ntense publicity blitz of national and local TV and radio programs.
Genson gave a couple of interviews last Thursday that more than just hinted at his discontent. Genson, for instance, told The Associated Press he wasn’t involved in impeachment decisions. “I should be,” he said, “but I’m not.”
A couple of hours later, Adam told the AP that the lawsuit to block the Senate trial might still be filed, but Genson denied any lawsuit was imminent. Genson then told the Sun-Times, “I don’t know anything about it.” A day later, he resigned. As I write this, Genson is also reportedly refusing to refund any of the $500,000 legal retainer he received from Blagojevich’s campaign fund.
The governor kicked off his ill-fated publicity blitz by appearing on a Chicago radio show Friday morning. Blagojevich claimed the impeachment process was an orchestrated plan to remove him from office so that Quinn could raise taxes. Amazingly enough, the hosts let him get away with this crazy talk. Blagojevich made the same claim later in the day to reporters, who weren’t so accepting of his silly theory.
Blagojevich also said he was still hopeful the Senate would change its impeachment trial rules to allow him to call witnesses like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel has said that no untoward or illegal offers were made by Blagojevich regarding Obama’s Senate seat.
But Senate Democrats said last week that nobody from the governor’s office has contacted them formally or informally about the trial rules. Blagojevich’s trial boycott meant that he missed the deadline last week to ask that witnesses be subpoenaed.
In other words, he’s just throwing verbal bombs on his way off the cliff, and Genson refused to jump with him.
Illinois tax receipts plunged late last year as the economy soured, putting the state’s already swollen budget deficit on track to hit a record $4 billion and increasing the odds of a tax increase.
Total tax collections dropped 6.6% to $6.2 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31, according to Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes. Key funding sources including sales taxes, corporate income taxes and investment income shriveled as financial markets collapsed, consumers stopped spending and businesses retrenched.
State revenues projected to rise nearly $800 million during the fiscal year ending in June now are forecast by the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to fall $1.3 billion — the first downturn in six years.
Combined with rising Medicaid and other state payments, the shortfall will force Illinois legislators to confront painful decisions on spending reductions and tax increases. Frozen credit markets have choked off opportunities for deficit financing used to close budget gaps in the past.
“Without any changes, the hole is going to be $4 billion to $5 billion,” says state Sen. David Syverson, R-Rockford, a member of the forecasting commission. “Illinois was in extreme financial straits before the downturn even started; this just puts us in an even worse scenario.”
* And Sen. Koehler attempts to walk back his comments from last week…
Hold your horses, says state Sen. Dave Koehler. There’s actually no specific proposal for a tax hike to cover the state’s backlog in bills.
At a town hall meeting at the Peoria Public Library’s Lakeview branch last week (more on that later), Koehler told the audience the state will pay its bills - even if it requires a one-time tax increase. The headline to the story read, “Koehler: Bills backlog may require tax hike.”
And they’re off and running.
“Nothing has been proposed. It’s kind of an idea in progress,” Koehler said Friday. […]
“The key is, we can’t continue to operate as a state and have people waiting six, seven, eight, nine months for the payment. That really puts pressure on the communities and small business and it’s just not an acceptable way of doing business,” Koehler said.
If something is proposed down the road, Koehler said it would be more of a user tax. “Really, a one-time catch up,” he said.
* Progress Illinois has a summary of what the state can expect to receive from the non-transportation portion of the federal bailout. Keep in mind, however, that this is still a work in progress and not all of the money will arrive at once, nor will all of it directly benefit the state budget.
* There’s more grumbling about the transportation plan…
Though President Obama is begging Congress to pass a jobs-stimulus bill, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, his fellow Chicago Democrat, says he’s “leaning against” voting for the bill in its current form — because it contains too little for transportation.
“Clearly, the state of Illinois has greater needs than the state could receive under the current bill,” said Lipinski, who’s on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Downstate Transportation Committee members Aaron Shock, a Republican, and Phil Hare, a Democrat, agree with Lipinski that the transportation portion is too small.
“There’s very little for mass transit and rail,” said Hare, who wants an Amtrak line from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa.
The stimulus bill aims to create jobs in the sputtering economy. It allocates less than 8 percent of the $825 billion for transportation projects, which, for Illinois, would mean about $1 billion for roads and $545 million for mass transit.
CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown told the Transportation Committee last week that the CTA could spend $500 million within 90 days just fixing slow zones and buying new trains and buses.
Fifteen hours and 46 minutes. That’s how long the clout-heavy law firm of Chico & Nunes spent as Springfield lobbyists for the Chicago Christian Industrial League, the homeless shelter where Gov. Blagojevich’s wife Patti worked as a fund-raiser until she was fired last week.
The law firm headed by Mayor Daley’s former chief of staff Gery Chico disclosed its lobbying relationship with the league on papers filed with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White at 6:02 p.m. Dec. 4.
Chico’s firm ended the relationship the following morning — the day the Chicago Tribune reported that the feds had secretly recorded Blagojevich.
Oops. The explanation is that the filing was made in error. They never intended to lobby the state, just the city, was the explanation offered.
The bottom of the story…
Chico helped the governor’s wife get her job at the league last summer. And his law firm hosted a campaign fund-raiser for Blagojevich the night before he was arrested by the FBI.
* Jumping into Illinois and Chicago politics (they may have actually been pushed) has turned out to be a huge mistake for the Chicago Christian Industrial League. Not only did they hire the governor’s wife at a six-figure salary, and Gery Chico as their lobbyist, but here’s more…
A decade ago, David Ariola owned a South Loop gym where Mayor Daley worked out.
Today, the businessman serves on Daley’s Community Development Commission, making recommendations on every proposal for city tax-increment financing — the multimillion-dollar program Daley has used to build offices, stores, schools and other projects across Chicago.
As one of 15 members of the unpaid city advisory board, Ariola supported the mayor’s plan to spend more than $13.5 million to build a $25.2 million homeless shelter for the Chicago Christian Industrial League — a charity that had sold its longtime home in Greektown to Daley’s friend Michael Marchese for a luxury condo development.
Ariola’s Chicago Realty Co. was later hired by the league to oversee construction of the homeless shelter — a project that has left the league in financial trouble, unable to pay a $10.8 million loan it got to finish the project.
And now they’re broke.
* I wouldn’t call any of these people gangsters, that wouldn’t be right. But what happened to the Christian Industrial League since it was “nudged” into moving out of its old digs and into a new building looks almost like a classic case of how the Outfit takes over a restaurant. First, they demand free food and drinks, then they force the owner to buy a bunch of supplies on credit and sell them out the back door for cash profit. Then the restaurant is burned to the ground to collect the insurance.
As I’ve often said, the mob and Illinois politics both operate under the ancient system devised by the Roman Legion…
“You were around the old-timers who dreamed up how the Families should be organized, how they based it on the old Roman legions and called them Regimes, Capos, and Soldiers. And it worked.”
• The rules that govern the Illinois Senate trial essentially are those that applied to President Bill Clinton in his impeachment case. The Illinois House moved carefully to impeach the governor. If some senator now suggests lynching him—”Under these rules, I’m not even getting a fair trial—they’re just hangin’ me,” he said Friday—we expect Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald to restore sobriety.
• Yes, there are restrictions on which witnesses can be called to testify before the Senate. Those restrictions apply to the prosecution and the defense. Which raises this question:
• If the governor thinks the rules of evidence are unfair, why didn’t he bother to challenge them weeks ago? It’s absurd for him to now claim he can’t get the fair trial he didn’t formally seek, without testimony from the witnesses he didn’t attempt to call. Talk about reaching a verdict without supporting evidence.
• Nothing prohibits the governor from testifying as his own best witness. He could explain to the people of Illinois his version of “the truth.” He’s been invoking “the truth” for years now—”When the whole truth comes out,” he said again Friday—without articulating it. Presented now with the opportunity to do so, he’s a noisy no-show.
• The Senate trial concerns the fitness of one man to serve as governor. So you’re free to ignore that man when he complains, as he did Friday, “Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?” Guilt and innocence, words freighted with sacred meaning in criminal court, aren’t the point of this trial. Fitness to serve, to lead, to govern, is.
By hiring the public-relations firm that represents former Bolingbrook Police Sgt. Drew Peterson, the impeached governor of Illinois has accomplished two things.
He has given the green light to those of us who felt timid about drawing comparisons between his brash behavior and Peterson’s. And he has cemented our state’s new marketing slogan as: “Come to Illinois. Chock full o’ crazy.”
Setting the stage for a momentous act of political repudiation, the state Senate prepared to open the first impeachment trial of a governor in Illinois history at noon Monday, and disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich said his days in office were numbered.
“And for me to just quit because some cackling politicians want to get me out of the way because there’s a whole bunch of things they don’t want known about them and conversations they may have had with me . . . would be to disgrace my children when I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” Blagojevich said in a transcript of the interview.
Blagojevich also maintained that some of the state senators who will decide his political fate don’t want him to present defense witnesses.
“There are some of those that are sitting in judgment of me on Monday in the state Senate that were on telephone calls with me” when his calls were taped, he said.
The Illinois unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent in December, the highest rate since June 1993 and up from 7.3 percent in November and 5.3 percent a year earlier, the Illinois Employment Security Department said Friday.
The state lost 36,000 jobs in December from a month earlier, marking the seventh consecutive month of job loss. Year-over-year, non-farm payroll dropped by 100,700 jobs. In November and December, the state lost a combined 73,600 jobs, the largest two-month decline since that recordkeeping began in 1990, the agency said.
* Several hospitals in Chicago area give hefty price breaks to patients without medical insurance
Rush University Medical Center, for instance, will reduce hospital bills by 50 percent for any uninsured patient, regardless of their income or assets. Loyola University Medical Center lowers bills by 40 percent.
The city is getting $1.15 billion to outsource parking meter management over the next 75 years to Chicago Parking Meters LLC.
According to a schedule provided by the city Revenue Department, meter rates are expected to rise from $3 an hour in the Loop to $3.50 this year and $4.25 in 2010, then to $6.50 in 2013. At non-Loop, central business district meters, the rates will rise from $1 to $1.50 an hour to $2 an hour sometime this year, and up to $4 in 2013.
For parking in front of your neighborhood dry cleaner, the rates will climb from 25 cents an hour to 75 cents, then to $2 by 2013.
A 14-year-old aspiring police officer donned a uniform, walked into a Chicago police station and managed to get an assignment — patroling in a squad car for five hours before he was detected, police said Sunday.
* I can’t watch it because I’m too busy. If you’re watching, tell us what is going on in comments…
…Adding… I was asked by a GMA producer to help prepare Diane Sawyer for today’s show. I was reluctant, but she convinced me that Sawyer was serious about doing a hard-hitting interview. We’ll see what happens.
*** UPDATE *** The governor’s new PR firm knows how to lead reporters around by the nose. The question about whether the governor would choose Oprah appeared to be planted with Sawyer ahead of time. Sawyer asked about his choices and said she had heard some things, the governor asked her what she’d heard and she said “Oprah.” The media responded predictably. From USA Today…
Television host Oprah Winfrey was one of the people Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday that he considered appointing to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama.
The embattled governor, whose impeachment trial was slated to begin Monday, told ABC’ sGood Morning America in an interview that the idea of nominating the talk show host came to him as he explored potential candidates for the job that federal prosecutors allege he tried to sell to the highest bidder.
So far, the Tribune and the Sun-Times are both leading with the Oprah angle. But scan down a bit and you’ll find more. Tribune…
“[Prosecutors] took snippets of conversations completely out of context…,” Blagojevich said. “When the whole story comes out you’ll see that the effort was to work for a senator who could best represent Illinois.”
“Help me with context, help me with the context that explains: ‘I got this thing and it’s bleepin’ golden. I’m just not giving it up for bleepin’ nothing,’ ” Sawyer said.
Blagojevich repeated he couldn’t go into details and that he wished the Illinois legislature’s impeachment process would let him present exculpatory evidence and witnesses.
Blagojevich looked surprised when he heard that ABC had state Sen. Matt Murphy (D-Palatine) at the ready to respond to the governor’s allegations that the trial is unfair. “The suggestion that this is somehow unfair to the governor is the most self-serving, ludicrous statement I have ever heard in my life,” Murphy said in a brief back-and-forth with Blagojevich.
Towards the end of the interview in what appeared to be a surprise to the governor, Sawyer introduced Illinois state Sen. Matt Murphy to confront Blagojevich. “It’s another self-serving statement,” he said of the governor’s comments. Murphy added that the impeachment trial rules were fair and patterned on those used in the U.S. Senate trial of President Bill Clinton for his actions in covering up his affair with Monica Lewinsky and noted that Clinton was acquitted.
“That’s an inaccurate statement. The fact is President Clinton could’ve called witnesses if he was allowed to and he did.” Blagojevich then launched into a defense, warning that if “they can do it in Illinois, they can do it here in New York and in other states when governors fight for the people against lawmakers who thwart efforts to expand healthcare, who want to raise taxes on people, and who thwart efforts to be able to go out and create jobs…”
But for all the talk by the news divisions of “exclusives” and “firsts,” giving Blagojevich air time isn’t about journalism. In fact, the reason he will be all over the tube is that he has hired a PR firm, and they have launched a massive media blitz on his behalf.
So, why are the networks and cable channels going along with the campaign and featuring the man charged with trying to sell the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama?
Because you don’t know what bizarre statement is going to come out his mouth next, and he often sounds like a crazy man. If anyone didn’t already know that, Friday’s news conference with all his strange talk of “cowboys ropin’ steers…and herdin’ cattle” provided more than enough evidence. He somehow sees himself as a cowboy that the Illinois Senate is trying to “hang.”
Blagojevich is a TV freakshow. Watching him is like watching Tammy Faye Bakker or Kato Kaelin. It makes for great live TV but in the end, it’s a meaningless diversion from the real stories of the economy and war that need to be covered.
So, don’t be fooled by the networks, cable channels, anchors and interviewers as to what they are selling with Blagojevich today and tonight. It’s mainly trash.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, calling corruption charges against Gov. Rod Blagojevich a “great embarrassment,” said Sunday that the governor should appear in the Capitol for his impeachment trial, not under the bright lights of New York television programs.
Durbin, a Democrat like Blagojevich, said it is up to the governor if he wants to appear Monday on “Good Morning, America,” ‘’The View” and “Larry King Live,” the same day the state Senate will convene a tribunal on whether to remove him from office.
“But Barbara Walters is not on his jury,” Durbin said at a Sunday news conference, referring to the veteran newswoman who co-hosts “The View.”
“I would think he’d be better advised to be in the Illinois state Senate tomorrow at noon to defend himself,” Durbin said, explaining that 59 Illinois state senators are expected to be present at the trial.
*** UPDATE 4 *** I forgot to link to the GMA video. Here it is. More here.