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01-26-09, 10:01 PM #1
Gov. B-Rod says he considered Oprah Winfrey for the vacant Chicago Senate seat
Continuing his media blitz on the day that his impeachment trial was scheduled to begin in the Illinois Senate, Gov. Rod Blagojevich appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning where he stuck to his story that he did nothing illegal and that he was a victim of an unfair process that could lead to his ouster in a matter of weeks.
Asked directly by interviewer Diane Sawyer if he did anything wrong, Blagojevich said: "Absolutely not and I'll have a chance in a criminal case to show evidence and bring witnesses. And this impeachment trial actually gives me an opportunity, if it was fair, if it allowed me to actually bring witnesses, to prove that the allegations are not true."
He also said he had considered appointing talk show host Oprah Winfrey to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
(Watch the video.)
But mostly, Blagojevich repeated what he has said earlier, that he wants to bring witnesses like Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, who he believes would support his contention that he wasn't involved in a pay-to-play scheme to fill the Senate seat.
Sawyer persisted, reading to Blagojevich some of the most damning complaints from the federal criminal complaint in which the governor appears to be trying to auction off the Senate to the highest bidder.
But Blagojevich fended off her repeated inquiries. "I can't get into the specifics of the case but I could say this. There's a process, a lot of discussions and ideas. And there was an underlying effort to end up in a place that did the most for the people of Illinois ..."
"Did the most for the people of Illinois," repeated a skeptical Sawyer.
"They took snippets of conversations completely out of context...," Blagojevich said. "When the whole story comes out you'll see that the effort was to work for a senator who could best represent Illinois."
"Help me with context, help me with the context that explains: 'I got this thing and it's bleepin' golden. I'm just not giving it up for bleepin' nothing,' " Sawyer said.
Blagojevich repeated he couldn't go into details and that he wished the Illinois legislature's impeachment process would let him present exculpatory evidence and witnesses.
But Sawyer continued hammering Blagojevich with questions that clearly indicated she wasn't buying his defense.
"You say it's a political process but the Illinois House voted to impeach you, 117-1. I think the one was your sister-in-law. The president has said you should resign. The mayor of Chicago has said you're cuckoo," Sawyer said to Blagojevich who smiled at the mention of his possible mental instability. "Have you lost your political base? Is it gone?"
Blagojevich responded: "Here's the question I have to you, Mayor Daley and everyone else. Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? How is it that you can make a couple of allegations, take some conversations completely out of context, the whole story's not told. And then ask somebody to admit to something that he didn't do and then to deny that person who's a sitting governor a chance to have due process and witnesses and to defend himself."
Sawyer began the interview by noting that the governor was with her in New York doing rounds of media interviews instead of defending himself at his impeachment trial in Illinois. Blagojvich was scheduled to be on ABC's "The View" talk show later in the morning. She asked him why he wasn't in Illinois defending himself.
"Because those (Illinois) senators are politicians who make the rules and won't allow us a chance to be able to get them to change the rules. So I'm here to talk to Americans to let them know what's happening in the Land of Lincoln."
At a press conference Friday, Blagojevich said Illinois lawmakers were "hanging" him in response to the federal criminal complaint that he tried to auction off Senate seat.
On the subject of Oprah Winfrey, he said the idea of nominating the talk show host came to him as he explored potential candidates for the job that federal prosecutors allege he tried to sell to the highest bidder.
"She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators," he said.
But he said he worried that the appointment of Winfrey might come across as a gimmick and the talk show host was unlikely to accept.
Blagojevich's appearance on "Good Morning America," to be followed by another on "The View," to be followed by "Larry King Live," is part of a morning-to-night public relations blitz of national television shows in a late bid to portray himself as a victim.
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