Page last updated at 05:07 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

Blagojevich to fight impeachment

The moment Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached

Scandal-hit Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has vowed to fight an attempt by state lawmakers to force him out of office.

The Illinois House of Representatives earlier voted to impeach Mr Blagojevich over charges that he tried to "sell" Barack Obama's Senate seat.

"I'm confident at the end of the day I will be properly exonerated," Mr Blagojevich told reporters.

Mr Blagojevich was arrested in December and charged with soliciting bribes.

'Freak show'

The Illinois House voted 114-1 to impeach Mr Blagojevich, although only 60 votes were needed for the motion to pass.

"It's our duty to clean up the mess and stop the freak show that's become Illinois government," said Jack D Franks, a Democratic representative.

Illinois's state Senate will now try Mr Blagojevich. If found guilty, the governor will be forced out of office.

Federal agents say Mr Blagojevich
Tried to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions
Tried to use state funds for the private purpose of inducing the Tribune Company to fire Chicago Tribune editorial board members critical of him
Tried to obtain personal financial benefits for himself in return for his appointment of a US senator

The move to impeach Mr Blagojevich follows an investigation by a 21-member committee of the Illinois House, which looked at testimony from FBI agents who wiretapped phone calls to and from the governor's office about who should fill President-elect Obama's Senate seat.

It is alleged the conversations show that Mr Blagojevich, a second-term Democrat, was trying to use the seat to get himself or his wife a job.

The panel said the evidence showed Mr Blagojevich was not fit to be governor, and voted unanimously to proceed to an impeachment vote.

British poet

Responding to the vote, Mr Blagojevich told reporters: "The House's actions today are because I've done things to fight for families."

He went on to defend his record as a governor, citing his attempts to provide healthcare to poor women, and his scheme to assist families faced with foreclosure.

And in an echo of a news conference he gave last year in which he quoted the poet Rudyard Kipling, Mr Blagojevich again decided to end his appearance with a reference to a 19th C0entury British poet.

This time, Mr Blagojevich quoted from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses", saying: "Tho' we are not now that strength which in the old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are."

Pat Quinn, the lieutenant governor of Illinois - who would have stepped into Mr Blagojevich's role if he stepped down - said he regretted the governor's decision to fight the impeachment.

"Governor Blagojevich has lost the confidence of the people of Illinois," he said.

"He's lost the consent of the governed, and under those circumstances, I think the proper course - as I've said before and many others have said - is to step aside and to resign, and I wish he had resigned today."

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