Ill. governor skips trial, appears on talk shows

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment trial opened Monday with a vacant chair reserved for the governor, who boycotted the proceedings and instead spent the day on the TV talk-show circuit in New York, complaining he is being railroaded.

“The fix is in,” Blagojevich declared on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

As the Illinois Senate assembled for the first impeachment trial of a U.S. governor in more than 20 years, David Ellis, the House-appointed prosecutor, told the chamber he will show that Blagojevich “repeatedly and utterly abused the powers and privileges of his office.”

In one of his first orders of business, Ellis won approval from the Senate to summon as a witness an FBI agent who oversaw the profanity-laden wiretaps that led to Blagojevich’s arrest on corruption charges last month.

With Blagojevich refusing to present a defense, Illinois senators could vote within days on whether to oust the 52-year-old Democrat on a variety of charges, including allegations he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama for a Cabinet position, a high-paying job for himself or his wife or campaign funds.

State senators maintained the trial will be fair, despite Blagojevich’s attacks on the process.

Blagojevich insists the remarks attributed to him have been taken out of context and that he has done nothing illegal.

Pressed on what context would justify using Obama’s Senate seat to land a job for himself, Blagojevich said he didn’t try to make an illegal trade.

Blagojevich appeared on ABC’s “Nightline,” “The View,” talked to Geraldo Rivera of Fox News Channel and appeared in a taped interview on NBC’s “Today.” He was scheduled to appear on “Larry King Live” Monday night and on CBS’ “The Early Show” today.

In one of the most surprising interviews of the day, Blagojevich said he briefly considered naming Oprah Winfrey to the Senate.

Winfrey said she would have turned him down.

“I’m pretty amused by the whole thing,” Winfrey told “The Gayle King Show” on Sirius XM Radio. “I think I could be senator, too. I’m just not interested.”

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