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Illinois Senate hears tapes of Gov. Blagojevich making deals

One of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s quotes is displayed as evidence during the second day of his impeachment trial in the Illinois Senate in Springfield on Tuesday. Senators listened to secretly recorded conversations in which Blagojevich appears to talk about pressuring people for campaign donations.

AP photo

Blagojevich

CHICAGO — He wasn’t there, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s own words boomed across the chambers of the Illinois Senate on Tuesday in the first public airing of covert recordings, capturing what federal investigators claim is the governor seeking to trade his signature on a gambling bill in return for a campaign contribution.

There was nothing new in the snippets of four conversations — less than six minutes out of thousands of recordings that prosecutors have referred to in their corruption charges against the governor. But they were nonetheless a galvanizing moment on the second day of the impeachment trial that could remove Blagojevich from office by the end of the week.

The recordings sometimes bounced off the walls and boomed through the ornate chamber, punctuated with patches of static. Senators appeared to struggle at times to make out who was saying what, leaning forward in their maroon leather seats. They had the prosecutor play the recordings a second time, so they could follow along that time with transcripts, listening intently.

Blagojevich continued his two-day New York media tour, but Senate President John Cullerton urged him to return to Illinois and offer some sort of defense at the Statehouse.

“He could certainly come himself and testify,” Cullerton said. “I would still urge him to do that. I certainly would vote to allow him to do that, and it would be appropriate. ... We’re only hearing one side so far.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Tuesday that Blagojevich is “making a mockery of the constitution” by failing to participate in his impeachment trial and predicted he could be out of office by Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in Chicago, Madigan also said that his refusal to appear before the Senate may indicate Blagojevich knows he doesn’t have an adequate defense despite his pleas to the contrary on national television.

“The governor is making a mockery of the law. He’s making a mockery of the constitution,” Madigan said. “The whole concept of impeachment has been enshrined in not just Illinois law, but in federal law, from the beginning of our country. It’s talked about in the Federalist Papers, and so for him to claim he’s not going to get any kind of a fair trial and fair process is absolutely absurd.”

The second day of the Illinois Senate impeachment trial began with an FBI agent testifying to the accuracy of covert federal audio recordings at the center of criminal corruption charges against the governor.

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