FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH ON THE "LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN," TUESDAY, FEB. 3
Dave: "Listen to this, last week, having been impeached after six years as Governor of Illinois, our first guest was removed from his post and banned from ever again holding elected office in that state. And you think you had a tough week. (audience laughs) Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Governor Rod Blagojevich. Here we go."
(Paul and the orchestra play "My Way" as Blagojevich comes out; he and Dave shakes hands)
Dave: "Why exactly are you here, honest to God? (audience laughs)
Rod: (laughs) "Well, you know, I've been wanting to be on your show in the worst way for the longest time."
Dave: "Well, you're on in the worst way, believe me." (audience laughs, applauds)
Rod: (laughs) "I sure am."
Dave: (laughs) "There's no getting around that."
Rod: "Well, I figured I had to get impeached and thrown out of office to get the chance to get invited by you."
Dave: "I was looking down the records here. Otto Kerner, Democrat, governor of the state of Illinois, convicted on 17 counts of bribery, conspiracy, perjury and charges related to accepting bribes. Daniel Walker, Democrat - he was convicted in 1987 of improprieties related to the First American Savings & Loan Association bank, sentenced to seven years, governor. Governor George Ryan, currently serving a six and a half year prison term at a medium security prison and is scheduled to be out - he'll be out and walking around 2013 (audience, Rod laugh) "Now, I mean, is this just part of the oath of office that you guys take?" (audience and Rod laugh, applauds) "I mean, what - how is this possible? What is that?" (audience laughs, applauds)
Rod: "Well, when you read it that way, it's obviously a dangerous thing and had I known that when I ran the first time, I wouldn't have run. I'd have stayed as a congressman. But I'd like your listeners to know and everybody in Illinois and anyone else who's listening that unlike those, I'll be vindicated." (some audience laughter) "I did nothing wrong." (audience laughter) "I did nothing wrong. And I'll have an opportunity to be able to go in a court to prove that I did nothing wrong."
Dave: "Now, here's my impression, and I'm not a pundit or an expert, but I saw you - I saw you on 'The View,' I saw you on the Rachel Maddow Show, I saw you on the Today Show, I saw you, I think, every other show that is in production currently," (audience laughs) "and the more you talked and the more you repeated your innocence, the more I said to myself, 'Oh, this guy is guilty.'" (audience, Rod laugh; audience applauds) "Now, are you - my point is in having such a high profile during this, you run that risk. Now, I'm not saying I'm everybody, but I had that impression."
Rod: "Well, I can appreciate your position but consider a circumstance that might involve your life. Let's say hypothetically there was another guy who had a talk show on another station from in Burbank, let's say he came from New Jersey. And let's say, let's say he said you weren't funny and he had 20 reasons why your Top Ten List sucks, would you want him just to get away with that or would you want to be able to say it simply isn't true? And I can just tell you that it's a very difficult thing that I've gone through, unimaginable, unexpected, unanticipated and I assert my innocence because it is the truth. And the alternative is to sit in some corner, hide, cower in the fetal position and assume - and accept what people are saying that you did and you didn't do it and I didn't do it, and at the appropriate time, I'll have a chance to prove that."
Dave: "Right, so why not wait for the appropriate time?" (audience laughs, applauds)
Rod: "Well, I get that, yep. I appreciate that. No, I appreciate that. But, again, walk a mile in my shoes - let's say people were saying all those nasty things about you and your lawyers are telling you've got to wait for your court date. At the same time, you've got two little girls - I have a 12 year old and a 5 year old. And they're hearing things about their dad that aren't true. It's very, very difficult to simply sit there and accept the things they're saying about you, taking things out of context and twisting it and to not say, 'It isn't true and I'll prove it's not true,' and I had a chance at my impeachment trial last week in Illinois to bring witnesses, everybody involved in this who I talked to about the senate seat, I wanted them to come in and under testimony, sworn, tell the truth. I wanted every one of those wiretap conversations heard, not two or three, but every one of them. I wanted the whole truth out, and if they would have allowed me that, I could have begun the process of vindicating myself sooner."
Dave: "And why was that not allowed at the impeachment?"
Rod: "It was a political dynamic - there was a decision made to remove me. There's a lot of reasons, and among them is - and I say this to the people of Illinois - I believe my fellow Democrats are going to raise the income tax. That was one of the reasons to get me out. Obviously, this is a political problem for the Democratic party. And, then of course, the other party sees this as an opportunity to embarrass our party. So there were a lot of dynamics that converged, and as a result, I was denied the right to bring in witnesses to prove my innocence."
Dave: "Now, when you say the Top Ten List isn't funny?" (audience laughs)
Rod: "No, I didn't say that. I didn't say that. I said, 'Assume someone accused you.'
Dave: "Okay, all right."
Rod: "No, I think they're very funny. I can give you 20 reasons why I believe that." (audience laughs, applauds)
Dave: "But now, and again, you're dealing with a man who's largely ignorant of these matters, but I was under the impression that the reason you were not able to appropriately defend yourself during the impeachment was because of the scheduled criminal trial that will take place in the spring, and therefore, without that on the docket, you would have been able to defend yourself I so assume with witnesses and whatever means at your disposal but because you will now face criminal charges, they would not allow witnesses in the impeachment. Is that roughly what happened?"
Rod: "That's roughly what it is. They were alleging criminal activity that they were not required to prove up, they denied me the right to disprove it, and this is America where you have the right to confront witnesses and address false accusations, and my position was since you're not going to do it, because the prosecutor has his agenda and that's understandable, then take that off the impeachment and let's move on and wait for the court case, and give me the same presumption of innocence that you enjoy, that Paul enjoys, and that all of your guests enjoy - the presumption of innocence and the right to confront accusers who are falsely saying things that you didn't do."
Dave: "Right now, other people will say, 'Well, what he's doing now, he's working on the jury pool for the spring trial. He's trying to plead his case, trying to prejudice a group of people so that it will be difficult to get an impartial jury for that trial. Anything?" (audience laughs)
Rod: "No, um - your audience obviously likes you, everything you say, they laugh at. And that wasn't all that funny, with all due respect." (Rod, audience laughs)
Dave: (looks at camera) "What? (audience laughs)
Rod: "The trial is probably going to be a year from now, it's not anywhere near imminent, so what I'm doing here is I'm just doing the best I can to clear my name. I have daughters who have a right to know that their dad didn't do some of the things they're saying I did and I'm appealing to the American people to just give me the basic fairness that they would expect for themselves.
Dave: "Now, let's just say - I've heard a lot of these excerpts, these tapes and we have a little bit of audio tape here, and I think it's you on the phone talking to your brother who is Rob, is that correct?"
Dave: "Right, you're Rod, he's Rob, and you're talking about a guy name Johnny Johnston who's a race track operator in Chicago and apparently there's some favor to be done, some money to exchange for a favor that he might want you - does that ring a bell with you?"
Rod: "Well, I mean, I can't talk about the details but - because that would be inappropriate based on the case, but when all of those tapes are heard - and again, I wanted those heard last week in the impeachment trial, all of them. I'm the anti-Nixon. See, during Watergate, Nixon didn't want any of his tapes heard because he had something to hide. Me, I want the full context heard so people understand what this was about. I had conversation with US Senators, with congressmen; I had conversations with all of the different people alleged in that criminal complaint. Let all of them testify under oath about the truth."
Dave: "So, now, as I recall, there were 13 articles of impeachment leveled against you. So you're telling me each one of those was a misunderstanding? Each one of those was something out of context?"
Rod: "I'll be happy to talk about some of them. First of all, they didn't prove up any - not asingle wrongdoing, not one act of wrongdoing. Secondly, they were not allowed to prove any criminal allegations, which they couldn't anyway because I didn't do anything wrong - I wasn't allowed to disprove it. Then they impeached me on going to Canada and getting safe and affordable prescription medicines for our senior citizens. I was the first governor to do that - save 30, 40 50% for seniors on their medicines. The governor of Wisconsin followed me, the governor of Kansas followed me, the governor of Vermont followed me. I worked with John McCain and Ted Kennedy on this issue. So if they're impeaching me on helping our seniors with safe and affordable prescription medicines, then they ought to expel John McCain and Ted Kennedy from the senate. That's one of the articles they impeached me on."
Dave: "And, but, what you're suggesting, regarding these articles, that they were all misunderstood, and the audio clips, that they were all somehow out of context. Is that a fair enough explanation of your defense here?"
Rod: "Well, presumably, there's hours and hours."
Dave: "Well, let's listen to this thing and you tell me whether it's out of context or not. And tell us what we need to know. Go ahead and set up the clip. (audience laughs)
Rod: "You want me to set up the clip? (audience laughs)
Dave: "Yeah, you set it up - this is you and your brother talking about Johnny Johnston, right?" (audience laughs, applauds)
Rod: "I don't know. I don't know, I haven't heard it."
Dave: "Let's take a listen here:" (conversation is played and chyrons appear on screen)
Rob: "Uh, I talked to Lon, and uh he says Johnny Johnston's good for it."
Rob: "He's gonna give you...ya know, he didn't get it. But he said, ya know, I'm good for it. I gotta just decide what, what uh, accounts to get it out of. And Lon's gonna talk to you about some sensitivities legistlatively tonight when he sees you. With regard to timing of all of this."
Rod: "Right - before the end of the year, though, right?"
Rob: "Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah."
Dave: "All right, so what have we got? What are we talking about there?"
Rod: "Well, I mean, you know, again, that speaks for itself - there's not a single criminal act in that conversation. I was afraid you were going to have some of those other tapes where I sounded like Christian Bale..." (audience laughs) "And had I known somebody was listening I would not have said some of those words, but these were private conversations with top staff."
Dave: "But what is it - is money going to change hands?"
Rod: "Oh no, campaign contributions, commitment to raise money."
Dave: "In return for some favorable treatment for the track owners?"
Rod: "No, absolutely not."
Dave: "And why did you need the money before the end of the year?"
Rod: "The way the fundraising works is there's two reporting periods: you report at the end of June, you report at the end of December. And then you ask people who are helping you to meet deadlines. And there was a commitment that had been made actually long before December of this year. And it was just to be able to get it in for the filing reports so you can disclose the contributions that you receive, everything that every politician does."
Dave: "So we listen to that, and you're saying to me that we want to hear the worst so we do hear the worst, but that little exchange couldn't have been more innocent, is that correct?"
Rod: "I think that that speaks for itself and again, there are hours of conversations. If the whole story is heard, you'll see a lot of different things and you know, the end result will show a decision and a process that was right for the people of Illinois. That's why I'm certain of being vindicated."
Dave: "So, in your mind, you're fairly certain that after the criminal trial, you'll be declared innocent and people will say, 'Holy God, we bounced the guy. He was completely innocent. He really should still be our governor.'"
Rod: "Yes, I do believe that and I believe it will be a historic result. And I believe that impeachment that they did last week was a hijacking of a governor elected twice by the people without proving any wrongdoing, without giving that governor elected by the people, not so much about me, but the people who elected me, the right to be able to show that I didn't do anything wrong."
Dave: "Do you use shampoo and conditioner?" (Rod, audience laugh; audience applauds) "Or is it two separate - because they've got a thing, I use it." (audience laughs, applauds)
Rod: (laughs) "Right."
Dave: "We'll be right back with Rod Blagojevich everybody."
Rod Blagojevich - Segment #2
DL: "All right. Rod Blagojevich. How do you -- I don't know in terms of protocol whether I address you as Governor, because you in fact did hold the office for a term and a half. Or if I refer to you as Ex-Governor. But what is it - how does it feel like to be introduced as the former Governor of Illinois under the circumstance? It must hurt, right?"
RB: "Of course it does. It's obviously not something I planned on. And everything changed when this happened in early December. But you know, you get up every single day and you keep embracing the truth, and you're confident of what the result will be and you've got to stand strong."
DL: "Right. Do you know Patrick Fitzgerald? Do you know him? Have you spent any time with him?"
RB: "I've met him a couple of - once or twice I've met him."
DL: "And he's the guy that's leading the investigation against you. Is that correct?"
DL: "And people, myself included, believe that it all began when Barack Obama became President-Elect Barack Obama, leaving an empty Senate seat. But actually, the investigation has been on-going for quite some time, hasn't it?"
RB: "Yes, it has."
DL: "And when did you first learn of the investigation?"
RB: "Um...first, and let me say this, the U.S. Attorney, the prosecutor - and I used to be a prosecutor, and I view them as the good guys. And I keep thinking that maybe one day, you know, I'll wake up and they'll realize that this is just one big misunderstanding. But they've been scrutinizing Mayor Daly in Chicago, they've been scrutinizing me, as well as other politicians. And that's not necessarily unhealthy. Cause it keeps everybody to make sure they do things right. But this really began some time - I first learned of it, I think back in 2004."
DL: "And why were they looking into your activities then?"
RB: "Not mine, they were looking at a friend of mine - a contributor of mine, and other political figures - on some of his activities. And that was the first inkling of it.
DL: "And what was your reaction then? Were you outraged? Or just business as usual? Or what did you think?"
RB: "No, the first thing I did was I had our Inspector General - an independent Inspector General, that hadn't existed before I was Governor - we created that through the law. Then State Senator Barack Obama helped pass that law. This friend is the friend who is very close to Barack Obama as well. And when I learned of this, the first thing I did was I told my Chief of Staff to have the Inspector General investigate it. And look into it. And then events unfolded and --"
DL: "And so you get a knock on the door one morning and it's the FBI, they're coming to arrest you. I mean, what was that? What time did that happen?"
RB: "It was a little after six in the morning."
DL: "Six AM."
DL: "So you're thinking - what do you think?"
RB: "Well, I went to bed the night before feeling good about the future. Knowing what I was going to do - "
DL: (laughs) "I'm sorry, but boy oh boy."
RB: "Yeah, looking forward to the holidays. Yeah. I hear ya."
DL: "Feeling good about the future..."(yawn) "I think I'll sleep in tomorrow."
RB: "That's right. I laid my running clothes out that night. Because you want to have those psychologically in there in the cold, dark morning -"
DL: "Motivator...get up and go."
RB: "Yeah. Get up and go. My alarm was set for six o'clock. It went off. I told my wife, 'Five more minutes.' Then before the five more minutes was up, the phone rang. And it was the FBI agent and I thought it was a joke. And I thought it was either one of my staffers or a friend. And then he insisted it wasn't. And then the head of the state police detail, who I know, said, 'It's not.' And then they came up and the rest is history. And, let me say this, had they called, I would have been more than happy to go down and address the issues."
DL: "Sure. And you're familiar with the joke: The former Governor is in Illinois Prison, down in wherever it is, the federal penitentiary there in Illinois. And he's working with another inmate and the inmate says to him, 'You know, Governor, the food was better when you were Governor.'" (audience laughs)
RB: "I don't know that joke." (Rod, audience laughs)
DL: "Maybe I screwed that up. Maybe I oughta be impeached!" (audience, Rod laugh) "And what is the possibility of some misunderstanding with your father-in-law? That's intriguing to me. Tell us about that. What are we talking about here?"
RB: "Well, hopefully, out of terrible circumstances there's an opportunity sometimes to repair relationships but, you know, Chicago and Illinois are rough and tumble places. It's obvious based on some of the things you've alluded to already. You know, I have a father-in-law who's a Chicago alderman. And, you know, in the political process, people have expectations of you. And if you were to ask me what my biggest disappointment is - having been Governor is, that the expectations of people who supported you were not as pristine or idealistic as yours were. There wasn't the high purpose to do things like healthcare for children, free rides for senior citizens, things that we've accomplished for people in our state under me as Governor. He was involved in a landfill that had gone, that we had heard was violating some environmental rules. This would have been late 2004. And I had a duty as the Governor to act and not look the other way. On the advice of the EPA, I shut the landfill down. It ultimately went to court. The court sided with us, kept it shut down until they can clean up the environmental issues. He got angry at me and made some accusations, publicly, that created some -"
DL: "Now did that - was that before or after you learned you were under investigation?
RB: "This was a little bit after that. And let me say, it wasn't that I was under investigation, the first inkling, it was that the supporter was. It wasn't me."
DL: "I understand. So how are things with you and Dad now? (audience laughs)
RB: "He's reaching out to his daughter and his grandkids. And wants to be helpful during this hard time."
DL: "And has he owned up to it? Has he acknowledged that, "Yeah, I called him in because I was upset about you closing down..."
RB: "No, He retracted the -"
DL: "Oh, so he retracted it."
RB: "He retracted it a few weeks after it all happened. Look, when you do something like that, you open up a whole hornet's nest and a Pandora's box and it's hard to put those furies back in the box.
DL: Boy oh boy. You - I really wouldn't give your troubles to a monkey on a rock." (audience laughs) "Allright. We'll be right back with Rod Blagojevich, everybody."
[End of Segment #2]
[END OF FIRST SEGMENT]