Blagojevich asks to make argument at Senate trial

By Andrew Harris
Bloomberg News / January 29, 2009
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CHICAGO - Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, impeached earlier this month by state legislators who accused him of abuse of power, has asked to deliver a closing argument at his trial before the state Senate, the chamber's leader said.

John Cullerton, the Senate president, said the two-term Democrat wishes to deliver a closing argument, for which he needs the Senate's permission, at the impeachment tribunal today in Springfield, Ill.

Blagojevich, 52, was impeached by the Illinois House of Representatives Jan. 9, a month after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago accused the governor of trying to auction President Barack Obama's vacated US Senate seat for campaign cash.

The governor has said the rules adopted by a bipartisan nine-member panel led by Cullerton bar him from calling witnesses for his defense or challenging the charges against him.

The governor has denied any wrongdoing.

"They're just hanging me," he told reporters in a Jan. 23 press conference in Chicago. Neither he nor his attorneys have appeared at the trial or contested the proceedings.

Lucio Guerrero, a spokesman for the governor, confirmed his planned appearance before the Senate in an e-mailed statement.

"I can confirm, but that's all I can say," Guerrero said.

Earlier yesterday, Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, said the governor had lied in a press conference last week and in television appearances this week about what the trial rules allowed him to do.

"He should come here and answer questions and provide the context," Cullerton told reporters.

The governor doesn't want to testify or be cross-examined, the lawmaker said to the Senate.

The Legislature impeached him on one article alleging abuse of power.

A two-thirds vote by the 59-member Senate is needed to remove him from office. The senators have heard testimony from six witnesses since the trial started on Jan. 26.

House prosecutor David Ellis, who originally sought to call 13 witnesses, has dropped plans to call seven of those witnesses.

Ellis has told Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald, who is presiding over the trial, that the testimony of FBI Agent Daniel Cain, who wrote the 76-page affidavit underpinning the criminal charges, eliminated the need for some witnesses, while the testimony of others would have been duplicative.

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