Illinois Governor Tossed Out

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[National Politics]

The Illinois Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to remove impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich delivers a closing argument at his impeachment trial Thursday.

Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges in December. Federal authorities allege, among other things, that he was trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that became vacant after Barack Obama was elected president. After the governor's arrest, the state House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him. The Senate vote was 59-0.

Moments after removing him from office, the Illinois Senate also voted unanimously to prevent Blagojevich from ever holding political office in the state again. Earlier Thursday, Illinois state senators made final deliberations in Blagojevich's impeachment trial.

"Honest and competent governors don't act like Rod Blagojevich," Republican Sen. Kirk Dillard said. "Rod Blagojevich needs to be removed from office."

Sen. Kwame Raul, a Democrat, said the governor had not presented any evidence in his defense and had not called any witnesses.

"He had the opportunity, and it's a lie for him to say that he did not have an opportunity," he said. "The governor presented absolutely no evidence in this case. All of the House prosecutor's evidence went unrebutted."

Blagojevich appeared before the senators at the trial, saying he had done "absolutely nothing wrong." Watch Blagojevich make his case »

"I'm here to appeal to you, to your sense of fairness, your sense of responsibility and to the truth," he said in a closing address that lasted less than an hour. It was the first time he had appeared at the impeachment trial, which began Monday.

"I'm asking you to acquit me and give me a chance to show my innocence," he said. "And if you're not comfortable with an acquittal, then extend this process and get more evidence, if you can get it, to show that I did something wrong or give me a chance to bring my evidence in."

Blagojevich, a two-term Democratic governor, was arrested on federal corruption charges in December.

Federal authorities allege he was trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that became vacant after Barack Obama was elected president. After the governor's arrest, the state House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him.

The governor firmly denied wrongdoing Thursday, as he has all week on television talk shows.

"If I felt I did something wrong, I would have resigned in December," he said. "If I felt I violated a law, I would meet my responsibility, I would have resigned in December.

"I wouldn't put my family through this, I wouldn't put you through this, and most importantly, I wouldn't put the people of Illinois through this.

"But I didn't resign then, and I'm not resigning now, because I have done nothing wrong."

The governor, who did not use notes during his remarks, said the allegations against him were unproven.

"There hasn't been a single piece of information that proves any wrongdoing," he said. "You haven't proved a crime, and you can't, because it hasn't happened.

"How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?"

As he did in his television interviews, Blagojevich railed against Senate trial rules that he said unfairly prevented him from presenting witnesses or evidence. After the governor's address, the Senate recessed for an hour before House prosecutor David Ellis gave a rebuttal to the governor's remarks.

"He could have put himself under oath and faced my questions," Ellis said. "More importantly, much more importantly, faced your questions. But he didn't do that, did he?"

"He talked more about the evidence with Barbara Walters on 'The View' than he did in this chamber today, where he's facing impeachment and removal from office," he said.

Earlier, in his closing argument, Ellis said the governor had demonstrated an "abuse of power" throughout his tenure as Illinois' chief executive.

"In this trial, we have laid out a pattern of abuse of power by Gov. Rod Blagojevich that culminated in his arrest on December 9, 2008," he said.

Speaking beforehand outside the state Senate to reporters, Blagojevich said he wanted to "clear my name and restore the public trust."

"I feel confident. I know the truth of things. I hope I get a fair shot today," he said. "Of course there is [sadness]. That's life. There's moments of triumph and moments of disappointment. I'm not giving up hope."

On Wednesday, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said Blagojevich had asked to be allowed to speak before the chamber.

Blagojevich railed against the trial on talk shows this week, calling it unfair and saying it sets a dangerous precedent. He has ignored trial deadlines and presented no evidence in his defense.

He told CNN's Larry King earlier this week that attending the trial "would dignify an impeachment process that's wrong and contrary to every fundamental civil liberty that we as Americans enjoy."

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