WASHINGTON--Impeached Gov. Blagojevich, is on a national media blitz for a second day, casting himself as a character out of a Capra movie. He said on CBS' "Early Show" on Tuesday he wants all the federal wiretap tapes of his telephone calls released to show "the full story" and to rebut allegations that he tried to sell President Obama's vacant senate seat.
In an unusual move, the show gave him two segments in the opening hour.
"Unlike Richard Nixon, who was dealing with issues of tapes who did not want his tapes heard, I want mine heard. I want the full story to be told," Blagojevich said. Meanwhile, in Springfield, the state senate today will hold the second day of Blagojevich's impeachment trial, where he is not presenting a defense.
Blagojevich was asked if this marathon media tour--which started with local broadcast media in Chicago--was intended to influence a potential Chicago area juror who may one day sit on a panel in a Blagojevich federal criminal trial. The governor said that was a "cynical" interpretation.
Asked by CBS about the quote from the wiretaps--referring to Obama's senate seat--where he says "I've got this thing and its (bleeping) golden," Blagojevich said he could have been talking about how he wanted to do political horsetrading for policies to help the people of Illinois. That's a version of an explanation Blagojevich has been using. But please note Blagojevich does not say that's what the conversations were about.
TRANSCRIPT BELOW COURTESY FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Governor Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. Prosecutors in this impeachment trial are trying to prove that he abused his power, but he's not there to defend himself. Instead he is here with us.
Governor Blagojevich, good morning. Thanks for coming in.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Good morning, Maggie. Thanks for having me.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: I heard you yesterday, in interview after interview, say that you are boycotting this trial because you believe it to be unfair in that it doesn't allow you to call witnesses. I have to say, I found that very unusual and, yes, unfair. So I did some research, talked to some legal experts, and I found the Senate resolution, and in it, Rule number 15 entitled "Subpoena of Witnesses, Documents or Other Materials and Requests to Admit Additional Evidence." I learned that, in fact, you can call witnesses.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: You should look at Rule 15(f), which says that if the U.S. attorney says you can't have certain witnesses that you want to call, they can't be called. And the heart of their impeachment are allegations that I violated some criminal laws, which I didn't. And that rule prohibits me or even the senators who are impeaching me from bringing witnesses to prove up the case. They are prohibited from actually proving up the charges, and I'm prohibited from bringing in witnesses to rebut the charges. And I'm even prohibited from bringing in all of the tapes of those telephone conversations, which I believe will tell the full story.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Okay, I did --
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Unlike Richard Nixon, who was dealing with issues of tapes, who didn't want his tapes heard, I want mine heard. I'd like the full story to be told. And if the Senate would allow me to have evidence like that, I sure would like to be there so I can prove my innocence.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: I did read Rule 15(f). I read the whole thing. And it does limit the number of witnesses you can call, but you can still call some. But let's say, for argument's sake, that you want to have the right to call any witness that you want. Why didn't you challenge this? If it's as unfair as you say, a lawyer like you, a defendant like you, who says he's not guilty, would have challenged it.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Well, that's what I'm doing here. This is the only --
MS. RODRIGUEZ: No, but I mean in a legal way, before the trial got underway, so that you could be there, represented in the way that you wanted to be.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Those senators who are impeaching me are the ones who make the rules. They're the judges in this process.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: You could have gone to a court of lawyer and challenged it --
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: No, unfortunately, we --
MS. RODRIGUEZ: -- and stopped it.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: -- we explored all of that, but there is no precedent to that. This is a quasi-judicial process that has a tremendous political overtone to it. The courts are loathe to get involved in something like this. We've obviously explored that. If I had a judicial remedy, I would have been there a long time ago. Unfortunately, I don't. And all I'm asking for --
MS. RODRIGUEZ: But why didn't you try?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Because every precedent that we looked at said --
MS. RODRIGUEZ: You could have been the first.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: No, there was a case of a governor in Arizona who tested all of that and was thrown out of court in each and every one of those cases. The more compelling argument, I think, is to tell the people of America that if a Senate and a legislative body can remove a governor who twice was elected by the people, a governor who's been accused of things but is eager to show he didn't do the things they say by preventing that governor from bringing in witnesses and evidence, and they're not even proving up the allegations that they're saying that I did, and if they can do that to me, that can happen to any citizen.
And it's a dangerous precedent for governors in Illinois and governors all across America, because when a governor is elected by the people and he's fighting to try to get things done, like health care or protect our seniors or not raise taxes when a legislature wants to, governors are going to be afraid to take the legislature on because they'll set a precedent here where you can be thrown out of office with just mere accusations, not given a chance to defend yourself.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Okay, so you say this trial is unfair. You didn't challenge the rules because you didn't think that you could win the challenge. But you can challenge the accusations right here, right now. You have a national audience. Your electorate is watching. Tell them why they shouldn't believe the snippets of conversations that we heard the U.S. attorney cite. And let me just read it, for those of us -- those people who haven't heard it.
Referring to Barack Obama's Senate seat, you say, "I've got this thing, and it's 'bleeping' golden, and I'm not just giving it up for 'bleeping' nothing." What did you mean by that?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there's all kinds of interpretations. That could mean I want them to help me pass a jobs bill. I want them to help me expand health care. I want them to help me pass a jobs bill. I want them to help me expand health care. I want them to help us (come in ?) in Illinois and help us do the politics to do right by people. There's a million interpretations that you can take with one little snippet of a conversation.
That's why I'm urging the Senate, that's trying to throw me out of office, to have every one of those tapes heard in the full context, so the whole story could be told. And when the whole story is told, you'll see that I was doing what was right for the people and trying to make the right decision with a lot of different considerations and ideas and potential candidates, including somebody like Oprah Winfrey, who was for a while discussed internally as a potential candidate to succeed President Obama.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Oprah Winfrey, who is one of the richest people in the world, was considered, and you're accused of trying to get a lot of money for this seat. I mean, do you know how that sounds to people at home?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Well, of course it does. It's an awful thing.
And how would you like to be me? How would you like to have accusations like that?
MS. RODRIGUEZ: I wouldn't. That's why I would fight. I would try everything. I would subpoena these tapes. I would challenge it even though there's no precedent.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah. Well, that's why I'm here, because this, we believe, is the best possible forum that I have. The senators refuse to change their rules. We've asked them. We've explored the judicial remedies. And I'm at a place now where the best I can do is appeal to the people and argue a much larger fundamental issue, and that is the fundamental constitutional right of every citizen to be able to challenge somebody who accuses them falsely of doing something wrong. And if this could happen to a governor, it could happen to you and any citizen in America.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: All right, we are going to continue speaking with you in just a little bit. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Thanks, Maggie.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: We'll talk about why you think they're doing this to you when we come back.
MR. SMITH: Joining us once again, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The second day of his impeachment trial gets underway today in Springfield. The governor's not there. He's here talking on TV, as he did all day yesterday.
And it was suggested that the real reason you're here talking to people, talking beyond the impeachment hearings, is the fact that you're trying to soften up the jury pool for when your federal trial starts, that this really has nothing to do about the impeachment. It's a fair accompli; it's a done deal. You have no chance of winning it anyway. So if you can soften up a jury pool, why not come and blab with guys like us?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: That's a cynical interpretation. No, I'd like the senators to change those rules, give me a chance to bring in all the tapes and bring in witnesses so I can prove my innocence and I can --
MR. SMITH: It could be cynical. Could it also be accurate?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: No. This is all about trying to do the best I can to persuade those senators to change their rules. We've tried to talk to them. They've made a decision. It's a very strong political process. And unfortunately, again, there's a big principle involved -- throwing out a governor elected twice by the people without giving that governor a chance to be able to bring witnesses in and prove his innocence and to bring charges that they are prevented from proving up. It's just so fundamentally unconstitutional and wrong.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: You said you didn't challenge those rules because you didn't think that you would win the challenge. But you didn't even try to mount a legal challenge against these rules. You told us that in our previous interview.
If you were allowed to bring the witnesses that you wanted, what witnesses would you bring, and what would they say?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: I want to bring Congressman Rahm --
MR. SMITH: Former congressman.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: -- chief of staff, my congressman, Rahm Emanuel, who said on "Face the Nation," on your network, a little over a week ago that there was nothing inappropriate in his conversations with me about a Senate pick. I want to bring Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. I want to bring Valerie Jarrett, who's a high-ranking official in the Obama administration.
We requested that in the House. They denied it. I want to bring U.S. senators in who I talked to. I want to bring in everybody and anybody that I talked to about the U.S. Senate, who would show and prove that I did nothing wrong and I was doing everything ultimately to get to a position where I did right by the people.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Have they all called you and expressed their support for you during this?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: You know, during times like this, there's a saying that Dr. King had. "In the end we remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." It's a very lonely period. When things like this happen, people tend to be afraid to talk to you.
MS. CHEN: Let me just simply ask you, if you are innocent, why are they going after you?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: When you say "they," who are you referring to, the impeachment trial or the --
MS. CHEN: Yeah.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Well, part of the legislature has been trying to impeach me long before this happened. I went around the legislature and gave all of our senior citizens free public transportation. They were angry about that. I went around the legislature and gave all uninsured women in Illinois breast and cervical cancer screenings, mammograms and pap smears, to the 261,000 uninsured. And if they find cancer, we treat that cancer. They wouldn't pass it. I found a creative way to do it around them. I found a way to protect 35,000 poor people who lost their health care under President Bush. A Democratic house wouldn't pass it and protect those families. I found a way around it. And they're impeaching me.
Those are some of the articles of impeachment. They're actually impeaching me for something I did in my first term, which is Illinois was the first state to defy the FDA and go to Canada and get cheaper prescription medicines for our senior citizens.
MR. SMITH: Which is a program of questionable success and a lot of people say doesn't actually work and actually probably cost more money than it's worth.
Let me -- it's interesting, because your whole tactic on this seems to me, "I'm a martyr. I'm Jimmy Stewart. I'm in a Frank Capra movie." Do you really think this is going to work, or is this just a roadside attraction?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: No, if present trends continue, I'll be out of work in the not-too-distant future. I'm not delusional in terms of what my likelihood of success is to convince those senators to give me a fair trial. And again, it's more important than me. It's about the people who twice elected me.
You can't throw a governor out without giving that governor a chance to show he did nothing wrong. That's what they're doing. It's a dangerous precedent. But if you're asking me, do I see myself like a modern-day Frank Capra movie and I'm the Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper character, a guy ideologically or idealistically trying to do what's right for people, fighting a system, and then they push back, yeah, I see myself that way.
MS. CHEN: Is resignation at all an option for you?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: No, I've said consistently that I won't resign for two reasons. One, I did nothing wrong, and therefore I'm not going to acknowledge anything that I didn't do. Had I did something wrong, I'd have met my responsibilities and I would have resigned. That would have been my responsibility.
Secondly, and most importantly, I'm not going to resign. I have two little girls, and they're hearing a lot of bad things about their dad. For me to resign would be --
MS. CHEN: What do you tell them at home?
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Well, for me to resign would be to basically say to them that they shouldn't feel that their dad is an honest man. And I don't want to be in a position where they should be ashamed of their father. So I'll fight to the very end.
In terms of what we tell our kids, it's a very difficult time for our family. And our little girls -- my wife and I, we got them a little puppy during the Christmas holidays, something I was resisting for the last couple of years. But when all this happened, it was a therapeutic thing for our girls, and they love their little puppy and I think she's helping them through this.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Governor Rod Blagojevich, thank you for coming in this morning.
GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Thanks for having me.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: We appreciate your time.