Update June 27, 2011: Blagojevich was convicted on nearly all the corruption charges against him.
On Friday we asked you to send us any questions and comments about "Blago’s Bribes," the burgeoning scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. I spent much of the weekend (happily) reading and responding to your e-mails and now we want to publish some of the more common issues addressed.
Feel free to keep em’ coming!
Is there any chance Blagojevich could be proven not guilty? If so, what does this mean about how the media has been so quick to convict?
Short answer: Yes, of course there is a chance. There’s also a chance my beloved Chicago Cubs will win the World Series.
It helps that Blago has replaced his lawyer (relatively unknown family friend Sheldon Sorosky, who we wrote about) with the high-powered Ed Genson, who had the pleasure of successfully representing R. Kelly. Genson today said the case against the governor is "significantly exaggerated."
Blago also has going for him the fact that a grand jury hasn’t indicted him yet. In a rush to prevent Blagojevich from appointing Barack Obama’s successor in the Senate, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald may have jumped the gun. The Chicago Tribune ran a very interesting piece this weekend arguing that the arrest may have been a "rush to judgment":
The language of the complaint makes it clear there isn't yet enough evidence for an indictment: It alleges the accused "would" use interstate communications to further the scheme, not that they "did" use them.
But really folks, the FBI’s wiretaps aren’t helping his cause.
As for the media’s role in this mess: I’ll leave that to the Columbia Journalism Review, which recently argued that some reporters were stretching Obama’s involvement in Blago’s downfall.
· Speaking of which, what was Obama’s role in all of this?
I don’t know. If you do, fill us in! In all seriousness, currently we only have Obama’s word on the matter. The president-elect said he never discussed the open Senate seat with Blagojevich. No one has yet shown otherwise.
The same can’t be said for Obama’s chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, who did apparently have multiple conversations with the governor’s office. But be careful not to rush to judgment. A conversation does not mean a quid pro quo.
· Why isn’t ProPublica identifying Blago’s party affiliation?
My bad. I took for granted that almost everyone in Chicago is a Democrat. To clarify, Blago’s one of them, though he has acknowledged voting for Reagan.
· And finally, my favorite: Could Rod offer an insanity defense?
YES! Don’t underestimate the insanity defense. (I’m not being facetious; see here for an explanation of the federal insanity defense.) Yesterday’s New York Times did a story highlighting some of the gov’s erratic behavior. You judge for yourself what’s insane:
Mr. Blagojevich, 52, rarely turns up for work at his official state office in Chicago, former employees say, is unapologetically late to almost everything, and can treat employees with disdain, cursing and erupting in fury for failings as mundane as neglecting to have at hand at all times his preferred black Paul Mitchell hairbrush. He calls the brush "the football," an allusion to the "nuclear football," or the bomb codes never to be out of reach of a president.
Thanks again for writing. Continue sending us any questions or comments. Meanwhile, the man in question is hard at work: Blagojevich signed a bill already this afternoon. He did that even while Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan began impeachment proceedings.