Editor’s Note: You can read more Lisa Bloom blogs on “In Session”
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/26/blagojevich-prsr-1-23-getty.jpg caption="Gov. Rod Blagojevich"]
In Session Anchor
Over and over again, Governor Rod Blagojevich has said that the Illinois Senate impeachment hearing is unfair because he is not permitted to call witnesses.
This is the same guy who’s compared himself to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. so his credibility is strained. Nevertheless, I will strongly defend anyone’s due process rights, so I decided to look into this claim.
It is false. Illinois Senate impeachment rule 15 states: “Requests of subpoenas for witnesses, documents or other materials may be made by the Governor or his counsel in the form of a verified written motion to the Chief Justice . . . “ As far as I can tell, that did not happen.
Blagojevich says that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the Senate have a “cooperation agreement” by which the Senate will not call certain witnesses who are needed for the criminal trial, such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett or Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
First, under Rule 15, Blago could call witnesses on the many other articles of impeachment he faces that have nothing to do with these high profile witnesses. He hasn’t even tried.
Second, as a lawyer himself, Blagojevich should know that he could challenge any such agreement between the Senate and the prosecutor under Rule 15, as well as the state and federal constitutions, which give him the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him, and also entitle him to due process of the law, including the right to call witnesses.
He has not done that. Instead, he’s using the petulant child approach: “I’m going to take my marbles and go home!” That is a lousy legal approach, because as any first-year law student knows, Blago must make his motions under the hearing rules, even if denied, so that the record is preserved for later appeal. It’s the use-it-or-lose-it approach to enforcing legal rights. Not showing up is the worst possible legal strategy.
Had he made the proper motion and argued that the Senate is trampling his rights, he might have garnered the right to call any and all witnesses he chose. Instead, he complains to non-lawyers like the ladies of The View that he can’t call witnesses, hoping no one will catch him.
Blago, you’re busted. You’re misstating the law. I’d stick up for the due process rights of even the most despised amongst us, even you, accused of withholding money for a children’s hospital and trying to sell Obama’s senate seat. But don’t make up phony claims. As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”
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