Blagojevich impeachment panel to wrap up its work this week


Thank God I'm alive!
I could understand why they'd want to get this guy out of office as quickly as possible, but if this additional evidence helps their case, what's it gonna hurt to wait a little longer?

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CHICAGO – State legislators weighing evidence against Gov. Rod Blagojevich may finish their work before getting any tapes of the governor's conversations that were made secretly by the FBI, attorneys indicated Monday.

The House impeachment panel is racing to complete its job, possibly by the end of this week. But the efforts of federal prosecutors to give the panel some of the FBI tapes face a potential obstacle course in court that could take up several weeks.

"These tapes are relevant evidence; we'd like to have them," said David Ellis, a lawyer for the impeachment panel. But he said the panel could wrap up its work as early as this week, and "we have already gathered a large volume of evidence."

Blagojevich, 52, a two-term Democrat, is charged along with former Chief of Staff John Harris with a scheme to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama's election as president.

Blagojevich is also charged with illegally plotting to use his power as governor to squeeze roadbuilders, a harness racing executive and the head of a children's hospital, among others, for hefty campaign contributions.

Prosecutors propose to provide the impeachment panel with a few minutes of the extensive recordings the FBI made of the governor talking with aides and others.

As skirmishing got under way Monday, Blagojevich's chief defense counsel, Edward M. Genson, said he wanted all of the tapes released to the panel, not just the four brief ones that prosecutors offered.

"We are not going to ask that one tape, or two tapes, or three tapes or four tapes, be offered," Genson told Chief U.S. District Judge James F. Holderman. "We are going to ask that all of them be offered."

Such a proposal could force a time-consuming fight that in turn could delay the delivery of any of the tapes to the impeachment committee.

Genson declined to comment on his strategy after court. A spokesman for the government, Randall Samborn, also declined to comment on the direction of the case.

Other potential delays cropped up. At one point, Holderman suggested that attorneys tell the court by Jan. 20, long after the committee hopes to have its work done, whether they would approve releasing the tapes.

Holderman discarded that idea and set a fresh hearing for Thursday.

Members of the impeachment panel appeared unfazed by the possibility that any release of the tapes could come too late for them.

Rep. Frank Mautino, a Democrat from Spring Valley, said that if the tapes come too late they could always go to the Illinois Senate, which would take up impeachment if the House approves it.

"I don't think the committee should wait," said minority spokesman Jim Durkin, a Westchester Republican. The panel had "amassed a significant amount of information to make an informed decision," he said.

After the court hearing, attorney Daniel S. Reinberg said he believed his client, John Johnston, head of two Chicago-area harness racing tracks, was the person named in an FBI affidavit attached to the complaint as Contributor 1.

One of the tapes contains a conversation between Johnston and a lobbyist for the tracks, Lon Monk, a former top Blagojevich aide, Reinberg said. He said Monk is the person identified in the affidavit as Lobbyist 1.

The affidavit quotes Blagojevich and Lobbyist 1 as pressuring Contributor 1 for a campaign contribution at a time when key race track legislation was on his desk.

Attorney John P. Collins, who attended the hearing, declined to say whether he represented Monk or someone else. Reinberg said prosecutors told Johnston he is neither the subject nor a target of the federal investigation.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said that he would set up a special committee to determine how to rid state government of the endemic corruption that has plagued it for years.

The committee will be headed by attorney Patrick M. Collins, who as a former federal prosecutor sent former Gov. George Ryan to prison for racketeering.

As he spoke, former state Attorney General Roland Burris set off for Washington to claim the Senate seat that formerly belonged to Obama — even though top Democratic leaders in the Senate say they don't want to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich.

Blagojevich named Burris to the seat last week.

"I am the junior senator, according to every law book in the nation," Burris said. He said he was "hoping and praying that I will be seated."

Blagojevich also picked March 3 for a special primary to fill the U.S. House seat left vacant by Rep. Rahm Emanuel's appointment as Obama's chief of staff. He set April 7 for the special election — the same day prosecutors face a deadline for obtaining an indictment of Blagojevich.



Burris just claimed that he WAS the new senator, and that no one could stop him from taking his seat. And that is the arrogance of Illinois politics. Corruption from A to Z. Evidently, no one in Illinois thinks that the laws apply to them. That they can do anything they want, and flaunt it in everyone's face in the process, because that's who they are.

Sometimes, I think we ought to remove Illinois from the Union, along with Kalifornia. Bit I don't think even Canada would take them.


Titles are un-American.
The panel seems more like a formality that they're going through - they probably have more than enough evidence and are just trying to decrease the amount of time that he has to do damage.

Burris is possibly a bigger idiot than Blag. Burris is supposed to be sane, and yet he wants to be a senator so badly that he's willing to be the lackey of the absolute least popular person in Illinois. This will taint him for the rest of his life, and he'll probably lose reelection.


God Bless Our Troops!!!

Burris just claimed that he WAS the new senator, and that no one could stop him from taking his seat. And that is the arrogance of Illinois politics. Corruption from A to Z. Evidently, no one in Illinois thinks that the laws apply to them. That they can do anything they want, and flaunt it in everyone's face in the process, because that's who they are.

Sometimes, I think we ought to remove Illinois from the Union, along with Kalifornia. Bit I don't think even Canada would take them.

Burris denied seat in US Senate to succeed Obama
By LAURIE KELLMAN and ANN SANNER, Associated Press Writers Laurie Kellman And Ann Sanner, Associated Press Writers 36 mins ago
WASHINGTON – Roland Burris announced Tuesday he was rejected for Barack Obama's Senate seat, in a bizarre rainy-day scene on the Capitol grounds as lawmakers awaited the gaveling of the 111th Congress into session.

Standing amid a huge throng of reporters and television cameras in a cold and steady rain, Burris, 71, declared that he had been informed that "my credentials are not in order and will not be accepted."

The former Illinois attorney general said he was "not seeking to have any type of confrontation" over taking the seat that he was appointed to by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But Burris also said he was looking at options for taking the seat.

It was a spectacular demonstration of political gridlock at a time when the Democratic-controlled Congress has been eagerly awaiting Obama's inauguration while nervously anticipating tense work on a much-discussed stimulus program to steady the faltering economy.

An attorney for Burris, Timothy W. Wright III, said that "our credentials were rejected by the secretary of the Senate. We were not allowed to be placed in the record books. We were not allowed to proceed to the floor for purposes of taking oath. All of which we think was improperly done and is against the law of this land. We will consider our options and we will certainly let you know what our decisions will be soon thereafter."

Asked what his options were, Wright said there possibly could be a court challenge and he said that Burris also would continue to talk to the Senate leadership.

There had been earlier indications that the Senate would disallow Burris to take his seat, at least in part because his letter of appointment from Blagojevich was not co-signed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

Some of Burris' supporters have bemoaned the fact that Democrats would stand in the way of the Senate gaining its only black member. Burris himself downplayed the issue of race, telling reporters: "I cannot control my supporters. I have never in my life, in all my years of being elected to office, thought anything about race."

Earlier Tuesday, Burris had tense negotiations with Terrence Gainer, the Senate's sergeant at arms.

"I'm presenting myself as the legally appointed senator from the state of Illinois. It is my hope and prayer that they recognize that the appointment is legal," he said earlier in a nationally broadcast interview.

Burris dismissed the Senate Democratic leadership's position that he cannot be seated because he was appointed by a governor accused in a criminal complaint of trying to benefit financially from his authority to fill the seat that Obama vacated after winning the presidential election.

Burriss said his belief is that his appointment is constitutional and that "I have no knowledge of where a secretary of state has veto power over a governor carrying out his constitutional duties."

Burris also maintained that the announcement by Blagojevich Monday of a date for an election for a successor to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., proves the governor still has legal authority to carry out his duties. Emanuel will be Obama's White House chief of staff.

"There's nothing wrong with Roland Burris and there's nothing wrong with the appointment," Burris said.

Burris has found little support among fellow Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said Monday that Burris would not be permitted to take his seat because Burris "has not been certified by the state of Illinois," a reference to incomplete paperwork that only touches on the dispute. Senate Democrats maintain that Burris' appointment is tainted because of the charges against Blagojevich.

While Blagojevich has signed formal appointment papers, White has not, and Senate rules require that signature. Burris, in turn, has gone to court hoping to win an order for White to sign the necessary paperwork, and he has also threatened to sue to take his seat in the Senate.


Thank God I'm alive!
And now, Congressman Bobby Rush is charging racism for all the talk of not allowing Roland Burris to take his seat. What would he be saying if Blagojevich had appointed a white man? Manism? Sheesh!


Ya beat me to it, festus! I smiled like the proverbial Cheshire cat when I heard the news of Burris' acceptance of his "lock-out." I think he was kind of hurt that his fellow Democrats didn't accept him, either. Finally, something good happens.


Thank God I'm alive!
Illinois impeachment panel to grill Blagojevich Senate appointee

I don't understand why all of a sudden everyone wants Burris seated. Did everyone forget that the guy who appointed him is accused of trying to sell the seat to which Burris was appointed? So yes, he should be heavily scrutinized.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois Republicans are promising tough questions Thursday for Senate-appointee Roland Burris on why he accepted a position offered by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich and whether he promised the governor anything in return.

Burris on Wednesday returned from an encouraging two-day visit to Washington, D.C., yet without being able to take the oath of office with the newest members of the 111th Congress. He next faces an impatient impeachment committee.

"I would like to specifically ask, under oath, if there was any quid pro quo for the appointment," said Rep. Mike Bost, a Republican member of the Illinois House committee considering Blagojevich's impeachment.

Lawmakers also plan to ask Burris about contributions to the governor's campaign, how Blagojevich's wife got a job with a group affiliated with Burris' business partner and why the governor's criminal lawyer approached Burris about the Senate instead of a staff member.

The panel is awaiting a federal court ruling Thursday on whether it will get to hear some of the secretly recorded conversations federal prosecutors made of Blagojevich allegedly scheming to trade government action for campaign contributions.

Some committee members hope to complete their work and schedule a House vote on an impeachment recommendation before the week's out. That would send the matter to the state Senate for a trial.

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Senate leaders have said they would be open to recognizing Burris' appointment after he deals with lingering legal obstacles.

They're also waiting for a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court on whether Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White must sign off on Blagojevich's appointment of Burris. Senate rules appear to bar seating anyone whose appointment isn't properly signed by state officials.

When Burris showed up at the Capitol to be sworn in Tuesday, he was turned away in the rain. But on Wednesday, he was invited in to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Photographers snapped pictures of the three, Burris in the middle, smiling and chatting.

Later, Reid and Durbin reported that they thought highly of Burris and they were merely waiting for procedural matters to be resolved before he could be seated.

"We don't have a problem with him as an individual," Reid said.

Burris, 71, said he should be able to join the Senate "very shortly."

Burris denies any improper conduct to land his appointment, but Senate leaders hoped that Burris would be asked under oath Thursday whether he promised Blagojevich anything in exchange — sort of political insurance in case other news came out after his seating in the Senate.

If Burris offers that insurance and the Illinois Supreme Court requires the secretary of state to sign his appointment, then the Senate will almost certainly hold a vote on whether to seat Burris, Reid said.

The impeachment committee's Democratic chairwoman, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, played down the importance of Burris' appearance, saying people must "have a screw loose" to think Blagojevich offered improper deals after being arrested.

But Republican Rep. Jim Durkin said the appointment raises serious questions. He called the role of the governor's criminal attorney, Samuel Adam Jr., "another level of bizarre."

"Mr. Burris owes an explanation to the millions of people in the state," Durkin said.

Blagojevich's appointment of Burris on Dec. 30 created a furor. It came just three weeks after he was accused by federal prosecutors of scheming to profit from his power to name President-elect Barack Obama's replacement in the Senate.

Obama said Wednesday that the decision on whether to allow Burris to join the Senate is a decision for Senate leaders. The president-elect said he knew Burris, liked him and would be happy to work with him if he is seated.

The Congressional Black Caucus voted unanimously Wednesday to support seating Burris, who would be the Senate's only black member.

"This is a situation where we have a senator who has now missed out on his first day," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a caucus member. "It's only fair that he be sworn in immediately. This is a no-brainer."

Meanwhile, Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, sued the Senate on Wednesday, saying the refusal to seat Burris is unconstitutional.


Thank God I'm alive!
Blagojevich on the verge of impeachment

I think this is all the more reason that Roland Burris should not be seated. But that's just me.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich faces almost certain impeachment by the Illinois House, a historic step that would trigger a trial to determine whether the Democratic governor should be tossed out of office.

A simple majority vote will be enough to impeach. With Blagojevich defenders almost impossible to find, the outcome appears set.

The governor seemed to acknowledge the inevitable when he issued a statement Thursday night that looked past the House vote and predicted a different outcome in the subsequent Senate trial. His statement criticized the hearings leading up to the House vote as unfair and biased.

A House committee has been studying the possibility of impeachment since shortly after the governor's arrest on federal corruption charges. On Thursday, the 21-member panel unanimously recommended impeachment, saying Blagojevich has abused his power and mismanaged the state.

"He's mortally wounded politically and cannot lead our state. His political life is over," said Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat.

Wasting no time, House Speaker Michael Madigan scheduled a vote for the following morning.

"The people of the state want us to move forward with all due speed, providing that there will be a protection of constitutional rights," Madigan said.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who would take over if Blagojevich is ousted, said it's time for the governor to "face reality" and give up his office.

"That's what President Nixon did back in 1974 during another ordeal that our country faced. In this case, our state has been put under an ordeal for a month. It is time to put an end to it," Quinn said.

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges that include allegations he schemed to profit from his power to name President-elect Barack Obama's replacement in the Senate. The criminal complaint included an FBI agent's sworn affidavit describing wiretaps that caught Blagojevich allegedly talking about what he could get for the seat, how to pressure people into making campaign contributions and more.

While the governor maintains his innocence, the committee's report notes he did not appear before the panel to explain himself. "The committee is entitled to balance his complete silence against sworn testimony from a federal agent," it says.

The report recounts the federal charges but includes other allegations as well — that Blagojevich expanded a health care program without proper authority, that he circumvented hiring laws to give jobs to political allies, that he spent millions of dollars on foreign flu vaccine that he knew wasn't needed and couldn't be brought into the country.

"The citizens of this state must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own," the committee's report said. "It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so."

Blagojevich was allowed to have lawyers present at the hearing. They could question witnesses to clarify points but not conduct full cross-examinations. The defense wanted to subpoena members of Obama's transition team, but that wasn't allowed because of worries it would interfere with the federal investigation of Blagojevich.

Thursday's statement from the governor's press office said the committee's rules denied Blagojevich due process. "When the case moves to the Senate, an actual judge will preside over the hearings, and the governor believes the outcome will be much different," the statement said.

The statement called the committee's vote "a foregone conclusion," noting that a draft version of the report was released Thursday morning — before the committee's final witness had appeared.

That witness was Roland Burris, the man Blagojevich appointed to the Senate seat just three weeks after his arrest.

Burris, the former Illinois attorney general, denied making any sort of deal with Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate appointment. He refused to take a position on whether Blagojevich should resign or whether he should be impeached.

U.S. Senate leaders had wanted Burris, under oath, to deny any improprieties before they would agree to seat him. They're also waiting for the resolution of a dispute over whether Secretary of State Jesse White must sign off on Burris' appointment before it takes effect.

The committee finished its work as chances grew dimmer that lawmakers will get transcripts of some of the secret recordings of private Blagojevich conversations that led to his arrest. Court hearings on the release of the transcripts could run into early February, U.S. District Chief Judge James F. Holderman said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich's defense attorneys in Chicago urged Holderman to remove U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald and all of his assistants from the case, charging in a motion that Fitzgerald violated rules about pretrial publicity at a Dec. 9 news conference announcing the charges.

Federal prosecutors immediately responded that the maneuver was "meritless."

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