Today the impeachment trial of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich focused on four FBI wiretap recordings of the governor and his allies discussing what sounds like an attempt to shake down Balmoral Park racetrack owner John Johnston for campaign contributions in exchange for Blagojevich signing a bill favorable to the horse-racing industry. After FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain was questioned about the recordings, state Sen. Chapin Rose recounted allegations of wrongdoing against Blagojevich that were made in guilty pleas and federal trial testimony by Ali Ata, a former state official and campaign contributor, and Joseph Cari, a former national Democratic fundraiser.
The Chicago Tribune has a comprehensive look at today’s proceedings on its Clout Street blog, which can be found here: http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/clout_st/2009/01/senate-trial-today-the-governor-on-tape.html.
Something I’d like to point out is that despite Blagojevich’s claims to the contrary all over the national airwaves, the governor is being tried for allegations of wrongdoing that have nothing to do with his alleged attempt to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. Blagojevich is also lying when he says he can’t defend himself or call witnesses to testify on his behalf. There are some potential witnesses that would not be allowed because they may be part of the criminal case against the governor, but there are plenty of other people who are eligible to defend Blagojevich during the trial – though there might not be anyone who actually wants to be tied to the unpopular governor in that way.
The reality of the situation is that Blagojevich knows he won’t win, so he is blowing off the whole trial as if it is a miscarriage of justice, which is not true. If you listen to coverage of the trial, as I have been doing, you’ll know firsthand the case for impeachment is being laid out in a method similar to a court proceeding. That is why Blagojevich is going national with his pleas of unfairness toward him. There probably aren’t too many people outside Illinois watching the trial beyond the brief clips shown on the cable news networks. Blagojevich isn’t pleading his case at all in Illinois, because most of us here are better informed about the situation. He knows sympathy is more likely to be found outside the Land of Lincoln.
There is at least one Illinois lawmaker in Blagojevich’s corner, though. State Sen. Rickey Hendon, a black legislator from Chicago’s West Side, has expressed concerns that Blagojevich isn’t getting a fair trial in the Illinois Senate. Hendon went so far to say the black community supports the governor while the white community wants him booted from office. Seems another race card is being played from the deck used by Blagojevich and his allies.
Fortunately, the race card shouldn’t save Blagojevich’s political career. But it may keep him out of prison when it comes to a jury judging him in his criminal case.