Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office today without a single lawmaker rising in his defense, ending a nearly two-month crisis that erupted with his arrest on charges he tried to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
From the Associated Press:
Blagojevich becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.
After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.
“He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor,” said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.
Blagojevich’s troubles are not over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.
Outside his Chicago home Thursday night, Blagojevich vowed to “keep fighting to clear my name,” and added: “Give me a chance to show you that I haven’t let you down.”
“I love the people of Illinois today more than I ever have before,” he said.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, one of Blagojevich’s critics, was promptly sworn in as governor.
Blagojevich, 52, had boycotted the first three days of the impeachment trial, calling the proceedings a kangaroo court. But on Thursday, he went before the Senate to beg for his job, delivering a 47-minute plea that was, by turns, defiant, humble and sentimental.
He argued, again, that he did nothing wrong, and warned that his impeachment would set a “dangerous and chilling precedent.”
“You haven’t proved a crime, and you can’t because it didn’t happen,” Blagojevich (pronounced blah-GOY-uh-vich) told the lawmakers. “How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?”
The verdict brought to an end what one lawmaker branded “the freak show” in Illinois. Over the past few weeks, Blagojevich found himself isolated, with almost the entire political establishment lined up against him. The furor paralyzed state government and made Blagojevich and his helmet of lush, dark hair a punchline from coast to coast.