Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich just finished his closing argument in the Senate impeachment trial. In an impassioned argument, Blagojevich invoked images of his immigrant parents, the people he tried to help by providing health care benefits, and working families.
Blagojevich followed a strategy of saving his arguments until the end, when the prosecution cannot call more witnesses. Blagojevich’s arguments at many times were more like testimony, bringing up facts regarding various legislation at issue in the trial to show that nothing wrong took place. At times, Blagojevich called certain Senators out by name to recollect the projects they worked on.
Blagojevich argued that the criminal charges against him have not been proven, and that he has been denied the right of every American citizen to confront the evidence and witnesses against him, and to call witnesses. Blagojevich said that he wanted all the tapes played, and all the witnesses to testify, including Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. Blagojevich said he wasn’t even getting school-yard justice; even in a school yard someone accused of fighting is allowed to bring other children to say that he didn’t do it.
On the non-criminal charges at issue, Blagojevich argued that not one of his actions has been shown to be illegal, and on most of these issues, he worked with the Democratic leadership in the legislature and even Republicans. Blagojevich pointed out that each of the programs at issue was intended to help the working poor, not himself, and that the courts have not yet determined whether he acted properly or not. On importing prescription drugs, he worked with other governors and U.S. Senators Kennedy and McCain, and the entire idea came from then Congressman Rahm Emanuel. On flu shots, he said Illinois was not alone in trying to import flu vaccines due to a shortage, and other Governors such as Bill Richardson wanted some of the vaccines obtained by Illinois until the FDA stopped the program.
In summation, Blagojevich asked the legislators to walk a mile in his shoes, and not to set bad precedent for future Governors. Blagojevich asked the Senators to extent the process, reopen the evidence, listen to all the tapes, and allow him to call all the witnesses.
The Senators are in recess until 1 p.m. Central Time.
Afterthought No. 1: Blagojevich did about all he could do. He made the points, and played some psychology with the Senators by requesting that the process be extended. Will the Senators simply push forward with a vote this afternoon, or will they be concerned with the perception Blagojevich created in his media interviews this week — hammered home in his closing argument — that he is being railroaded? We’ll find out pretty soon.
UPDATE: The Senate prosecutor gave his rebuttal, which was less than 15 minutes. The rebuttal started by the prosecutor saying he couldn’t give as good a speech as a politician — not sure that’s the argument I would make to a jury of politicians. Also, I hate it when lawyers put themselves down as a means of trying to paint the other side as fast talking, it’s an admission that you were outperformed.
On the substance, the prosecutor did well by contrasting the transcripts of taped calls with the Blagojevich who gave the closing. A rhetorical comparison of the Rod Blagojevich who says one thing when people are listening or watching, and another thing in private. The prosecutor could have been more methodical in this. The rhetorical device really didn’t fit Blagojevich’s argument, which is that the Senators have not been allowed to hear all the tapes and he has not been allowed to call witnesses. The prosecutor then went into campaign mode, arguing that “the people of this State have had enough, is today going to be more of the same, or a new era in this State. The people want to know are we finally going to turn the page.” [My notes, not from an official transcript.]
There is a one hour break, then we should find out if there will be a vote today.