Blagojevich impeachment hearings begin today

Chris Rizo Jan. 26, 2009, 12:03am

Rod Blagojevich (D)

Lisa Madigan (D)

Thomas Fitzgerald (D)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline)-Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says since his arrest on corruption charges he has thought about peace icons Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

In taped appearance that will run on NBC's "Today" show, Blagojevich said it is principle that has kept him from resigning despite calls for him to step down by fellow Democrats, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"I'm standing for a much bigger principle. I'm telling them if you want to throw me out of office that I'd be willing to sacrifice myself for the principle that everyone is entitled to a fair trial in America," he said, according to a transcript. "I think the thing is rigged and it's fixed and there's no chance whatsoever to have a fair hearing."

Today, the Illinois Senate begins Blagojevich's impeachment hearings. The non-criminal hearings will be presided over by state Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald, a Democrat.

If at least 40 of the state's 59 senators agree to convict the governor, he would be immediately removed from office. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would then become the state's chief executive.

But instead of being in the Statehouse, the two-term government will appear on ABC's "The View" morning talk-show, ABC News's "Good Morning, America" program and CNN's "Larry King Live" later in the evening.

Blagojevich said he won't attend his impeachment because, among other reasons, he claims the Senate has kept him from calling witnesses.

"You can conceivably bring in fifteen angels and twenty saints led by Mother Teresa to come in to testify to my good character, to my integrity and all the rest. It wouldn't matter," he said.

Last month, the governor was arrested for allegedly trying to sell for political and personal favors the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

For his part, Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing. Three weeks after his arrest, Blagojevich appointed former state Attorney General Roland Burris to Obama's Senate seat.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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