— RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, ‘RACHEL MADDOW SHOW:’ Governor Blagojevich, thank you for being here. It’s nice of you to take the time.
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, D-ILL: Thank you.
MADDOW: You have handled this ordeal with a lot of political skill—so far. T his media tour that you have done in New York has really effectively overshadowed a lot of what’s going on in the Illinois State Senate right now. I would also say that your appointment of Roland Burris to the senate seat, it was accepted by the Senate, which was a big embarrassment to the U.S. senators who said that they would not accept him. Those are politically skillful moves. Do you feel weirdly in a way, that you’re sort of winning? That there’s a chance you might, politically, survive this ordeal?
BLAGOJEVICH: No, I don’t. I think the fix is into the State Senate. Unless they change their rules and give me a chance to defend myself. And most importantly, give the people of Illinois, who’ve elected me twice to office, a chance to bring all the evidence that’s relevant to show that I’ve done nothing wrong. Every taped conversation. Witnesses from Rahm Emanuel to Dick Durban to Harry Reid to Senator Menendez to Valerie Jarrett; every single witness who—might testify at a criminal case, bring them all in now. Because I’d like the whole truth to come out sooner rather than later.
And let that Senate impeachment process take what it’s doing and honestly and objectively determine whether or not there was anything done that was wrong. And once they hear the whole story they’ll find out that I didn’t do anything wrong, and I did a lot of things right.
MADDOW: Why not present statements from those witnesses that you described. You obviously can’t produce them because of the rules under which the impeachment proceedings are happening. But you could produce statements, if you thought they could provide them, that would be exculpatory, why not do that?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there are two key rules, and I don’t want to get into the technicality of it, ‘cause it’ll bore your listeners. But there’s two specific things that they have in those senate rules that essentially make it clear the fix is in. First, under rule 15F, any witness that you might want to call has to be approved by the prosecutor, the U.S. attorney. He’s said those witnesses from Rahm Emanuel and as well as others can’t be allowed.
MADDOW: But you could have a statement from any of them.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I’m not so sure that that’s actually true. The other part of it is, and that’s the more onerous one, is rule, I believe it’s 8B. That one says that they can actually make criminal allegations against you and not have to prove them up.
They don’t have to bring evidence in. Simply the report from the House is enough to be accepted as fact and cannot be objected to or challenged. That means you can bring in ten angels and ten saints led by Mother Teresa saying that you did nothing wrong, it won’t matter, because—they’ve already established, by just having that as part of their record as evidence.
MADDOW: Well, do you see it as a good thing or a bad thing that we actually got the audio tapes of some of the wiretapped conversations played today in the senate? That is something new. It just happened today. Are you happy that those tapes were played? Do you want more of them to be played?
BLAGOJEVICH: I want every tape. Every one of them. Every taped conversation to be heard so the whole story can be heard in the full context. Conversations, ideas, thoughts, potential senators here, potential senators there. How do we get results for people?
All those conversations would be, in my judgment, ought to be heard so that everybody hears the right story. I consider myself the anti-Nixon. Remember, during Watergate, Richard Nixon fought every step of the way to keep his tapes from being heard.
And then, finally, he ran out of roadblocks, the Supreme Court ruled he had to release those tapes, and there was one that showed that he had obstructed justice. I want just the opposite. I want them all heard, now, right away, so the whole story can be heard.
Because I know, I know that I never had a conversation where intended to violate any law. And I know that I didn’t break any law. And so what I’d like is a chance to be able to get that done sooner rather than later. And before those senators throw out a governor who was elected twice by the people they ought to give the people’s governor, who was elected by them, a fair opportunity to do what every citizen has the right to do, and that is to confront witnesses, and be able to show that if someone said you did something wrong you didn’t do something wrong.
MADDOW: In terms of public support, though, I mean, even before the arrests, your public approval ratings in Illinois were lower than Dick Cheney’s. I mean, you were not getting a lot of support from the public. Why do you think that was?
BLAGOJEVICH: (COUGHING) Well, actually, it depends on the polling that you know…
MADDOW: You don’t want to be in Dick Cheney territory at all, though, in terms of approval ratings.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well let me tell you something. Once the economy plummeted, and we had the financial crisis, down went approval ratings for everybody in high office. Whether it’s a governor of mayor. Certainly President Bush, Dick Cheney and, and everybody else.
The people are angry. They’re worried. They’re fearful. The economy’s terrible. And it’s among the reasons why you know, it’s cemented what was likely to be a Barack Obama victory anyway. And the desire and hunger for change. So I would suggest that what you’re referring to has a lot virtually everything to do with that.
MADDOW: So you think it was just part of broader national trends. You don’t think there was anything specific going on? I mean, your number, you have had a very rocky tenure as governor in terms of, not only your relationship with the legislature, but in terms of the way the public has seen you.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, yeah and I think part of that is because there’s been, you know, when you’re out there challenging a legislature, and you’re mixing it up, not for you, but to give every senior citizen free public transportation, to give every uninsured woman access to mammograms and pap smears and treatment, God forbid, if they discover they have cancer, and go around the legislature to do it.
And when you’re fighting them to be able to provide healthcare to 35,000 poor people, that the Bush administration took healthcare away from in September of 2007. And your fellow Democrats in the House, led by the speaker, Mr. Madigan, are blocking protecting those families. And you find a way with lawyers to go around the legislature to help those families.
MADDOW: Do you think that’s why they’re impeaching you though? You think it’s because of your policy conflicts with them on healthcare and elderly issues?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there’s 13 articles of impeachments. And those are some of them.
MADDOW: I’ve read (UNINTEL). They are similar.
BLAGOJEVICH: And how about this one? They want to impeach me ‘cause I went to Canada in defiance of the FDA, in my first term, to get cheaper prescription medicines for our senior citizens so they can afford both their groceries and their medicine.
That’s an impeachable offense, the people reelected me on that. They were also impeach the governor of Wisconsin, the governor of Kansas, the governor of Vermont, and why not expel John McCain and Ted Kennedy too because they worked with me on the issue of re-importation of prescription drugs.
MADDOW: That issue, the importation of prescription drugs, the policy differences around that, the way that was done is absolutely part of the articles of impeachment. But there is also other stuff.
BLAGOJEVICH: Right. You can say it. Yeah.
MADDOW: Do you agree that it would be wrong, it would be criminal for you to try to exchange Barack Obama’s U.S. senate seat, that appointment, for something that would be of value to you. You agree that that would be wrong.
BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, absolutely.
MADDOW: Yeah. Did…
BLAGOJEVICH: A personal, you know, one for the other personal gain?
MADDOW: And you didn’t do that?
BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely not.
MADDOW: Well, on the wiretaps, you’re quoted saying, “It’s a bleeping valuable thing. You don’t just give it away for nothing. If they’re not going to offer anything of value I might just take it. I’ve got this thing and it’s bleeping golden. I’m not just giving it up for bleeping nothing.” In what possible context could you say—say things like that if you weren’t trying to exchange something of value for the senate seat? What other context would make …
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, let me answer that two ways. First, I can’t comment specifically on that, ‘cause I haven’t heard those tapes. But assuming that’s what it is, if you hear all the tapes, and you hear the whole thing in its context, if I feared that that was something sinister or onerous would I want all those tapes heard?
And, in addition to that, just playing devil’s advocate, I’m not acknowledging that’s what actually were on the tapes, ‘cause we haven’t had a chance to hear it. But playing the devil’s advocate in assuming it was. Why can’t the construction of that be I want them to help me pass a public works program, a jobs program, that the Democratic speaker, Mr. Madigan, has been blocking.
I want them to help me help 45,000 working people get healthcare that the Democratic speaker in the house has been blocking. I want them to help me have a law that requires insurance companies to cover people with preexisting medical conditions that the Democratic speaker has been blocking.
MADDOW: Even if you wanted food for the hungry, I mean, even if you wanted justice itself in exchange for the senate seat, you’re not supposed to exchange anything for the Senate seat.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I don’t disagree that one for the other isn’t. But there are political negotiations and leveraging which is all very much part of the process. And, again, if those tapes were all heard you’d hear discussions that I had with people from five senior senators – Senator Dick Durban about facilitating Senator Menendez.
Harry Reid and I discussed the Senate seat. Heck of a lot of other people. And I would like every one of them to be able to testify under oath, sworn testimony, in that impeachment trial about the context and nature of those conversations.
MADDOW: Are you saying, though, that they would testify as to what you were trying to get in exchange for the appointment?
BLAGOJEVICH: I’m simply saying, if they told the truth, they’d be part of a big story and a larger story, that would, I think, show that there were a lot of ideas talked about. That we explored different options. We looked and tried to think outside the box, like Oprah Winfrey, for example.
Some ideas were good. Some were stupid. Some you can’t do. Just natural discussions when you’re trying to get a results that ultimately leads to the place that’s right for people. And when this whole story’s told it’s gonna show the decisions and all the rest, ultimately, we’re about putting people to work, expanding healthcare, and holding the line on taxes for middle class families.
MADDOW: When you again, this is from the wiretapped calls, and I realize you’re not gonna testify to their veracity. But they are out there, and the transcripts are there, and some of them were played today in the senate. Speaking about Barack Obama’s advisors, “They’re not willing to give me anything but appreciation in exchange for the senate seat. Bleep them.” What would you want other than appreciation? What could be kosher to exchange for a senate seat?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, how about helping us pass healthcare and a jobs bill? And helping the people of Illinois. Don’t just leave Illinois now.
MADDOW: I will appoint person X instead of person Y unless you do this favor for me?
BLAGOJEVICH: No, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying, I’m in a political business. When Barack Obama agrees to raise $10 million for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race that’s the natural political sort of thing that happens in this business.
It’s appropriate. Nothing that you—improper about it. Again, in the full context, discussions and the explorations of ideas and thoughts and whether you could or couldn’t do something you should be able to do that in a free country that guarantees the right of free speech.
Especially when you’re doing it in what you think is the sanctity of your home, and you want to do it out of your home phone, because you don’t want any interconnection with the government’s lines, so somebody thinks you’re talking politics on a government phone. Again, when the whole story is heard, and put in the proper context, I think you’ll see a process that ultimately would lead in the right place.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you another question about context then. And this is on the subject of the Tribune, again, what is alleged. And the criminal complaint is that you directed your Chief-of-Staff to tell the Tribune owner that if they wanted help on financing the sale of Wrigley Field that the Tribune owner must, quote, “Fire all those bleeping people. Get them the bleep out of there. And get us some editorial support.” Would you make a state action contingent on a newspaper firing people?
BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely not.
MADDOW: You didn’t say that.
BLAGOJEVICH: I haven’t heard those things. Let me tell you the story about the Wrigley Field deal. That was my idea. To find a way to help the Chicago Cubs stay at Wrigley Field after Sam Zell, new owner, bought the Cubs. And he had told me in a meeting that he thinks Wrigley Field should be torn down. And we ought to have a Coors Field like place. And I was horrified as a Cub fan, and as somebody who loves the people of Illinois, know Wrigley Field is a special place. The third biggest tourist attraction in the—in the state. And if they can tear down Yankee Stadium, it could happen to Wrigley Field too.
So what can we do to protect the people of Illinois and that special place where the Cubs play, that historic place, Wrigley Field. So we began this process to see. And we started working with Zel and his representatives, and the Cubs, on complicated financing agreement through the Illinois Finance Authority that was working perfectly and smoothly.
That I kept pushing and prodding. It became one of my big priorities. And so a lot of that, too, that’s being said is taken completely out of context. And I will say there’s a published report with the Tribune executive that made it clear no one ever, ever approached him in any way to suggest that there was some effort to do something like that.
MADDOW: “Fire all those bleeping people.” I understand that there’s a connection being drawn by the prosecutor, and he’s alleging that there’s a connection being drawn by you between that IFA deal, that financing deal, and your desire to get some people on that editorial board kabashed (PH).
BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah. I know.
MADDOW: Are they two totally separate things? Did you not want anybody kiboshed from the editorial board? Or are they just not connected?
BLAGOJEVICH: I can’t go into the details. But I will say… look, there was talk of impeachment long before this happened to me. It’s been happening throughout the last session in the House because I was finding legal ways to expand healthcare, help uninsured women get breast and cervical cancer programs and do things to get senior citizens free rides, and they were angry.
They thought that I was too aggressive with the executive use of my office. And so there was talk of impeachment long before that. When the election came and went that was a real possibility in the new session. Because there was a new leader in the senate who was close and allied with the House Speaker.
And so we had to consider the possibility that that could happen. And that they would say that this governor goes around the legislature and does too many things to get things done. That Cubs deal was an example, a legal process, but an example of the legislature not willing to do something to keep Wrigley Field in Illinois. So we found a creative way, through the Illinois Finance Authority, to keep the Cubs in a place where it was in their interest and the interest of the people, I thought, where they could stay.
That was something, the sort of thing that they would say is an impeachable thing ‘cause I’m using the executive office, they think, without the legislative approval. The Tribune editorial board was advocating that I be impeached for those sorts of things.
And so again, without going into detail, they’re getting the benefit of these things to try to help the Cubs. We just would prefer that they don’t, look, that—that the things that they’re advocating that I be impeached it’d be nice if they they laid off on an issue like that.
MADDOW: Did you (UNINTEL)?
BLAGOJEVICH: No. And there was never any discussion with anybody at the Tribune.
MADDOW: John Harris never told them to lay off on your behalf?
BLAGOJEVICH: Never directed to do any of that. But, again, I shouldn’t get into this. That’s the wrong thing to do. There’s a Supreme Court rule that says you shouldn’t talk about the specifics of the cases. But, when the truth comes out, all of that will be heard.
MADDOW: I understand, I’ve heard loud and clear, your objection to the Senate trial that’s going on right now. And certainly the rules there are—restrictive, and you’ve made your complaints, and very well, and very loudly, over these last couple days by these media interviews.
But I wonder, after all this happens, you are probably going to go to trial in an actual courtroom. Criminal trial on these. Will you defend yourself in that setting? Or will you also mount no defense like you have in the Senate? Will you defend yourself in court?
BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, absolutely.
MADDOW: You will.
BLAGOJEVICH: Are you kidding me? Absolutely. Yes.
MADDOW: Do you think that Patrick Fitzgerald…
BLAGOJEVICH: I intend to be vindicated. I intend the truth to come out. And I intend to clear my name and and be shown for the person that I am. And that’s one who has always, you know, fought hard on behalf of the people. Those without a voice.
To pexpand healthcare for those who otherwise couldn’t get it. And to do it in a way that doesn’t burden the middle class by raising taxes on them. But doing it other ways that put pressure on the system and asked for those, like big corporations, who haven’t paid their fair share to pay their fair share.
MADDOW: You have said that this effort to remove you from office is motivated by politics. That there were efforts to impeach you before the arrest and all these things.
BLAGOJEVICH: That’s true.
MADDOW: Was Patrick Fitzgerald in on that? I mean, do you believe that he’s also motivated by politics here? I mean, it’s not just a legislature that may be jealous of you. It’s not just politicians who may disagree with you. It’s not just corporations. This is a U.S. attorney. Do you think he’s part of a conspiracy or that sort of a political move?
BLAGOJEVICH: If you’re asking me do I think there’s some broad conspiracy with the U.S. attorney involvement, I don’t believe that at all. I’m a former prosecutor. And I still look at prosecutor, including the prosecutors in Illinois.
MADDOW: Fitzgerald. Yeah.
BLAGOJEVICH: I still believe that they’re the good guy. And they’re trying to do the right thing. And I feel like I’m on the same side as them. And I have this delusion, which I know is a delusion, that I’ll wake up sometime, like tomorrow morning, and then maybe they’ll realize there’s just one big misunderstanding here.
That’s likely not to happen. But, no, I believe different people have whatever their motivations are. And I shouldn’t be trying to speculate or guess what it might be. But I don’t at all feel like there’s some, you know, conspiracy with these different people…
MADDOW: Involving him.
BLAGOJEVICH: … that are trying to do that. I have no reason to think that (UNINTEL).
MADDOW: You lost your lawyer—this week, Mr. Genson has quit. Do you know why?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I have a legal team. He’s one of the lawyers. He’s a great lawyer. HI liken him to a modern day F. Lee Bailey. He’s from the San Francisco Bay area, where you’re from. But he made a decision, you know, sad to see him go. He’s a great lawyer.
MADDOW: He said I’ve been practicing law for 44 years. I’ve never required a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen to what I say.” He’s implying that you weren’t listening to some of his advice. Is there something he advised you to do that you disagreed with him on, you didn’t do?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, having this interview with you, and other interviews, sure.
MADDOW: Yeah. He didn’t want you to go public.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, no, he’s a good lawyer. And I understand that position. You know, a traditional lawyer like that would say to his client or her client, “Don’t say anything. Just, you know, lay low and let’s not take any chances. And don’t say anything ‘cause whatever you can say could be used against you.”
But, see, I’m the governor of a state and I was elected by the people. And it’s not a simple thing for me to simply allow all these different things that are being said, this rush to judgment, the the annihilation of the presumption of innocence, which is what has happened in this case, and all too often happens in others.
And for me then to essentially not fulfill at least a lot of my responsibility to the people who I owe it to, to explain to them that their governor didn’t do anything wrong. And so, while I’m being very careful, and I have to be careful that I don’t get into the details of the case, and because that’s not appropriate, at the same time, and hope I didn’t do some of them, I may have slipped in a little with that at the same time I feel a real urgent need for myself to tell the people who trusted me that I didn’t break their trust.
That I didn’t let them down. That I didn’t do anything wrong. And that when the whole story is told they’ll see, you know, a process that was complicated and—a lot of ideas and conversations. You know, some words, like profanities, that I wouldn’t have used had I known somebody was listening. But they’ll see that the whole end game was about making their lives better.
MADDOW: I have a question on that subject. Because there’s one thing here that find inconsistent between your actions and your explanation of them. And you’re very good at explaining where you’re coming from. And this is where I have the disconnect.
Because you appointed Ronald Burris after you had been arrested, after the wiretap transcripts were released, Illinois is now stuck for two years with a senator who has zero political potency. It’s no slur on Mr. Burris, or anything that brought him to this point, or that caused you to appoint him, but his legacy is now tainted by his association with this criminal case against you. And the people of Illinois are stuck for two years with an impaired senator, a political impaired senator. Do you feel guilty about that? That’s not in their best interest.
BLAGOJEVICH: No. In fact, I feel like I did my duty. Let me explain something to you. In, in spite of all the (UNINTEL) cry from my senior senators, Senator Dick Durban, we’re not taking them, and Harry Reid, “We’re not taking him. We’re not gonna seat him.” If I didn’t make that appointment I would have jeopardized our state. Our state would have been denied a US senator. A vote and a voice in the United States Senate.
MADDOW: For a period of time.
BLAGOJEVICH: That on my judgment, would have been an impeachable offense. Because I have a constitutional duty to appoint a senator and fill a vacancy so that Illinois is properly represented. Now they said, after all this happened, these lawmakers, that they were going to pass a law and allow the people to make that decision. I support that.
MADDOW: You wouldn’t have vetoed that.
BLAGOJEVICH: I would have signed it. The people should choose, not governors. Governor Patterson here, or me, we shouldn’t be in a position to do that. The—the people should decide it. But when they talked a big game and didn’t do it, then the only alternative was to listen to them and not appoint anybody, which is what they were doing, ‘cause they had their own deal in place for who they wanted.
Or to make the best possible choice I could make at that time. Now who did I pick? I picked a historic figure. And I picked a senator for the U.S. Senate where there wasn’t an African-American, after Barack Obama was elected president.
I picked an historic figure in Illinois who is the first African-American elected to statewide office. Who, as a young man, was a law clerk for Thurgood Marshall. Who is a former attorney general in our state for two terms? Comptroller in our state for two terms. A man of impeccable integrity. And a man who will get re-elected. A man who was gonna, not just be senator for two years, but instead he’s gonna run again, and I’m certain he will get reelected.
MADDOW: Do you see, though, thatthere’s tarnish on his political legacy because of the way in which he was appointed. Because you could have waited. You could have said, you know, “This should be settled this appointment will be made once allegations against me are settled. Either by the person who replaces me, or by me once I’ve cleared my name.”
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, no. Because, first, Illinois would have suffered because we wouldn’t have had a senator. And I was not gonna resign for something that I didn’t do that was wrong. And be run out of town because other people had a political agenda and they had their own senators that they wanted. And, secondly Ronald Burris and his career as a senator, and his record before that, is not at all involved in any of these allegations about me.
BLAGOJEVICH: And it’s just so unfair to him, to hold him, somehow, responsible for allegations on me. He’ll be judged on his own record as senator. And I predict he’ll do a great job, he’ll be reelected. And I’ll point out he has never lost a statewide office to a Republican. Now, he’s lost some primaries to Democrats. He lost to me for governor in 2002. He lost to Mayor Daley for mayor of Chicago. He’d lost to Paul Simon for the senate seat.
MADDOW: You’re not selling his record on that very well.
BLAGOJEVICH: But he’s won every statewide office against Republicans.
BLAGOJEVICH: And I don’t see a Democratic in Illinois who’d want to challenge a man like that, a historic figure. And the only African-American in the United States Senate. Why would a democrat from Illinois want to run against him and deprive the African…
MADDOW: Because of his association with you.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, he’ll win.
RACHEL MADDOW: Because—
BLAGOJEVICH: He’ll win that race. And he’ll win big.
MADDOW: You probably (UNINTEL) Roland Burris for life now. You don’t have very many other political allies. You have become a national figure in a way that I’m sure was not the way that you wanted to become a national figure. Are you mad?
BLAGOJEVICH: I’m not mad. I’m philosophical about it. Dr. King had a quote. Said that, “In the end, you remember not the words of your enemies, but the silence of your friends.” And when something like this happens to you it becomes very lonely.
And people who were in your office just the day before, people who were calling constantly ‘cause they had needs and wants, and were excessively obsequies, and if this was a private conversation I’d have another way to say it. Kissing you know, once this happened, you know, they’re nowhere to be found.
And if you try to call them they wouldn’t call back, so you know you don’t even bother calling them. But that’s kind of part of this business. And I understand a lot of it. That’s why Harry Truman said if, in Washington it applied to politics, and if you want a friend get a dog.
And that’s why you find comfort with your family. And, for us, my wife and I, the most difficult part is, our two daughters. Our little girls. And our 12 year-old especially, who is a lot more aware of what’s happening. And our little five-year-old.
And that’s another reason why, you know, I’m not gonna acknowledge things that aren’t true, or say that I did something wrong when I didn’t. Because I don’t want to shame my children. And much better for their father to fight to the very end for principles that are bigger than him, and this one is the office of the governor. And the right to be able to show he didn’t do anything wrong (UNINTEL) taken away from the people of Illinois than to simply accept something and—and somehow look like you did something wrong when you didn’t. So you know, the chances are I’ll be looking for work in the next several days. But we’ll get on. And I’ll vindicate myself. The truth will come out.
MADDOW: You’ll be working fulltime on your criminal defense, after this.
BLAGOJEVICH: I need to find some, you know, I’ll have to find some employment in some place. And I’ll do that. We’ll rebuild our lives. And we’re not unlike the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people across America who, unfortunately, are losing their jobs, because this economy is so bad. And, like them, we’ll get back to basics and—we’ll begin this process of rebuilding our lives.