Is former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich the next Nelson Mandela? He’d like you to think so.
Comparing himself not only to Mandela, but also Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, Blagojevich professed his innocence across the airwaves and at his impeachment trial last week to no avail.
The now former governor has consistently denied any wrongdoing since U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed corruption charges against him in December.
Instead of attending the first two days of his impeachment trial, Blagojevich spent his time on a New York City media blitz appearing on everything from “The View” to “Larry King Live.” Blagojevich called the trial “a sham” because it wouldn’t provide him a fair chance to defend himself.
As crazy as it may seem, the law is on his side.
Blagojevich’s situation is an unusual one. The Illinois Senate is not bound by the same rules of evidence and testimony that constrain a criminal court, so they were allowed to legally remove him from office without ever proving any criminal wrongdoing on the former governor’s part.
The basis for Blagojevich’s impeachment focused on a few snippets of recordings showing Blagojevich talking with a lobbyist about how to get campaign contributions in exchange for certain legislation.
Blagojevich claims the recordings were taken out of context but even if they were in context, it still isn’t apparent which law was broken.
The major discrepancy lies in the fact that Blagojevich was removed from office, but the probability of Blagojevich being convicted of any criminal wrongdoing is still unclear at this point.
Sure, an impeachment trial sounds like the wheels of justice turning, but it was tainted because the jury was made up of politicians who want to be re-elected. Blagojevich was impeached because he is unpopular – not because he has been proved guilty of any crime.
The established precedent, which allows the Legislature to remove an elected official from office before he or she has had a chance to be proved innocent, is far more dangerous than any crime Blagojevich may have committed.
If he’s so corrupt and dangerous, why not prove it before sending him home?