TRANSCRIPT: GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH ON MSNBC'S "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW"
NEW YORK - Jan. 27, 2009 - Embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich sat
down with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow today in an interview to air tonight on "The
Rachel Maddow Show."
Following are excerpts of the interview- if used, must credit MSNBC's "The
Rachel Maddow Show." The interview will air in its entirety tonight, 9-10 p.m.
ET on MSNBC.
Gov. Blagojevich, thank you for being here. It's nice of you to take the time.
You have handled this ordeal with a lot of political skill-- so far. The--
this-- this media tour that you have done in New York has really effectively
overshadowed a lot of what's going on in the Illinois state senate right now. I
would also say that your appointment of Roland Burris to the senate seat-- it--
it was accepted by the senate, which was a big embarrassment to the US senators
who said that they would not accept him. Those are politically skillful moves.
Do you feel like-- weirdly, in-- in a way, that you're sort of winning? That
there's a chance you might, politically, survive this ordeal?
No, I don't. I-- I-- I think-- the fix is into the state senate. Unless they
change their rules and give me a chance to defend myself. And-- most
importantly, give the people of Illinois, who've elected me twice to office, a
chance to bring all the evidence that's relevant to show that I've done nothing
wrong. Every taped conversation. Witnesses from Rahm Emmanuel to Dick Durbin
to Harry Reid to Senator Menendez to Valerie Jarett. Every single witness who--
might testify-- in-- in-- at a criminal case, bring them all in now. Because
I'd like the whole truth to come out sooner rather than later. And let that
senate impeachment process-- take-- what it's doing and honestly-- and
objectively determine whether or not there was anything done that was wrong.
And once they hear the whole story they'll find out that I didn't do anything
wrong, and I did a lot of things right.
* * *
Well, are-- do you see it as a good thing or a bad thing that we actually got
the audio tapes of some of the wiretapped conversations played today in the
senate? That is something new. It just happened today. Are you happy that
those tapes were played? Do you want more of them to be played?
I want every tape. Every one of them. Every taped conversation to be heard so
the whole story can be heard in the full context. Conversations, ideas,
thoughts, potential senators here, potential senators there. How do we get
results for people? All those conversations would be, in my judgment, ought to
be heard so that everybody hears the right story. I consider myself the
anti-Nixon. Remember, during Watergate, Richard Nixon fought every step of the
way to keep his tapes from being heard. And then, finally, he ran out of--
roadblocks, the Supreme Court ruled he had to release those tapes, and there was
one that showed that he had obstructed justice.
I want just the opposite. I want them all heard, now, right away, so the
(NOISE) whole story can be heard. Because I know, I know that I-- I-- I-- I
never had a conversation where intended to violate any law. And I know that I
didn't break any law. And so what I'd like is a chance to be able to get that
done sooner rather than later. And before those senators throw out a governor
who was elected twice by the people they ought to give the people's governor,
who was elected by them, a fair opportunity to do what every citizen has the
right to do, and that is to confront witnesses, and be able to show that if
someone said you did something wrong you didn't do something wrong.
* * *
I-- I-- do you agree that it would be-- it would be wrong, it would be
criminal-- for you to try to exchange Barack Obama's US senate seat, that
appointment, for something that would be of value to you. You agree that that
would be wrong.
A personal-- you know, one for the other personal gain?
And you didn't do that?
Well, on the wiretaps, you're quoted saying, "It's a bleeping valuable thing.
You don't just give it away for nothing. If they're not going to offer anything
of value I might just take it. I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden.
I'm not just giving it up for bleeping nothing." In what possible context could
you say-- say things like that if you weren't trying to exchange something of
value for the senate seat? What-- what other context would make--
Well, let me answer that two ways. First, I can't comment specifically on that,
'cause I haven't heard those tapes. But assuming that's what it is, if you hear
all the tapes, and you hear the whole thing in its context, if I feared that
that was something sinister or onerous would I want all those tapes heard? And,
in addition to that, just playing devil's advocate, I'm not-- not acknowledging
that that's-- actually were on the tapes, 'cause we haven't had a chance to hear
it. But playing the devil's advocate in assuming it was. Why can't the
construction of that be I want them to help me pass a public works program, a
jobs program, that the Democratic speaker, Mr. Madigan, has been blocking. I
want them to help me help 45,000 working people get healthcare that the
Democratic speaker in the house has been blocking. I want them to help me have
a law that requires insurance companies to cover people with preexisting medical
conditions that the Democratic speaker has been blocking. In--
Even if you want-- even if you wanted food for the hungry, I-- I mean, even if
you wanted justice itself in exchange for the senate seat, you're not supposed
to exchange anything for the senate seat.
Well, I don't-- I don't-- I don't disagree that one for the other isn't. But
there's-- there are-- political negotiations and leveraging-- which is all very
much part of the process. And, again, if those tapes were all heard you'd hear
discussions-- that I had with people from-- five senior senators-- Senator Dick
Durban about facilitating-- Senator Menendez. Harry Reid and I discussed the
senate seat. Heck of a lot of other people. And I-- I would like every one of
them to be able to testify under oath, sworn testimony, in that impeachment
trial about the context and nature of those conversations.
Are you saying, though, that they would testify as to what you were trying to
get in exchange for the appointment?
I-- I'm simply saying, if-- if they told the truth, they'd be part of a big
story and a larger story, that would, I think, show-- you know, that there were
a lot of ideas talked about. That we explored different options. We looked and
tried to think outside the box, like Oprah Winfrey, for example. Some ideas
were good. Some were stupid. Some you can't do. Just natural discussions when
you're trying to-- get a results that ultimately leads to the place that's right
for people. And when this whole story's told it's gonna show the decisions and
all the rest, ultimately, we're about putting people to work, expanding
healthcare, and holding the line on taxes for middle class families.
When-- when you-- again, this is from the wiretapped calls, and I realize you're
not gonna testify to their veracity. But they are out there, and the
transcripts are there, and some of them were played today in the senate.
Speaking about Barack Obama's advisors, "They're not willing to give me anything
but appreciation in exchange for the senate seat. Bleep them." What would you
want other than appreciation? What-- what could be kosher to exchange for a
Well, how about helping us pass healthcare and a jobs bill? And helping the
people of Illinois. Don't just leave Illinois now. And--
I will appoint person X instead of person Y unless you do this (UNINTEL) favor
No, no, the-- no, the one-- for the other is not-- that-- that's not what I'm
saying. I'm simply saying-- I'm in a political business. When Barack Obama
agrees to raise $10 million for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race that's
the natural political sort of thing that happens in this business. It's
appropriate. Nothing that you-- improper about it. Again, in the full context,
discussions and the explorations of ideas and thoughts and whether you could or
couldn't do something-- you-- you should be able to do that in a free country
that guarantees the right of free speech. Especially when you're doing it in
what you think is the sanctity of your home, and you want to do it out of your
home phone, because you don't want any interconnection with the government's
lines, so somebody thinks you're talking politics on a government phone. Again,
when the whole story is-- is heard, and put in the proper context, I think
you'll see a process that ultimately-- ultimately would-- would lead in the
* * *
You-- have become a national figure in a way that I'm sure was not the way that
you wanted to become a national figure. Are you mad?
I-- I'm not mad. I-- I'm philosophical about it. Dr. King had a quote. Said
that, "In the end, you remember not the words of your enemies, but the silence
of your friends." And when something like this happens to you it's-- it becomes
very lonely. And people who were in your office just the day before, people who
were calling constantly 'cause they had needs and wants, and were excessively
obsequious, and if this was a private conversation I'd have another way to say
it. Kissing-- you know, once this happened, you know, they're nowhere to be
found. And-- and-- and if you try to call them they wouldn't call back, so you
know you don't even bother calling them. But I-- that's kind of part of this
business. And I-- I-- I understand a lot of it. That's why Harry Truman said
if, in Washington it applied to politics, and if you want a friend get a dog.
And that's why you-- you find comfort with your family. And, for us, my wife
and I, the most difficult part is, our two daughters. Our little girls. And
my-- our 12 year old especially, who is a lot more aware of what's happening.
And our little five year old. And-- and that's another reason why, you know,
I'm simply not gonna-- I'm not gonna acknowledge things that aren't true, or say
that I did something wrong when I didn't. Because I don't want to shame my
children. And-- much better for their father to fight to the very end for
principles that are bigger than him, and this one is the office of the governor.
And the right to be able to show he didn't do anything wrong (UNINTEL) taken
away from the people of Illinois than to simply accept something and-- and
somehow look like you did something wrong when you didn't. So-- you know, the
chances are I'll be looking for work in the next several days. But we'll get
on. And I'll vindicate myself. The truth will come out.
You'll be working fulltime on your criminal defense, after this.
I need to find some, you know, I'll have to find some employment in some place.
And-- and-- and-- and I'll-- I'll-- I'll do that. We'll rebuild our lives. And
we're not unlike the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people across
America who, unfortunately, are losing their jobs, because this economy is so
bad. And, like them, we'll get back to basics and-- we'll begin this process of
rebuilding our lives.