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Blagojevich is removed from office in 59-0 vote

Pat Quinn, right, is sworn in as governor of Illinois by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Ann Burke, left, while his son Pat Quinn IV holds a Bible. Quinn had been a vocal critic of Blagojevich.

Associated Press

Pat Quinn, right, is sworn in as governor of Illinois by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Ann Burke, left, while his son Pat Quinn IV holds a Bible. Quinn had been a vocal critic of Blagojevich.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office Thursday without a single lawmaker coming to his defense, brought down by a government-for-sale scandal that stretched from Chicago to Capitol Hill and turned the foul-mouthed politician into a national punchline.

Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.

After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.

"He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor," said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

Blagojevich's troubles are not over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.

Outside his Chicago home Thursday night, Blagojevich vowed to "keep fighting to clear my name," and said: "Give me a chance to show you that I haven't let you down."

He added, "I love the people of Illinois today more than I ever have before."

Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, one of Blagojevich's critics, was promptly sworn in as governor and said he would work to "restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government."

Blagojevich's name and picture were promptly stripped from the state's official Web site, and his photo was removed from a display at the Capitol entrance. Quinn also canceled Blagojevich's security detail.

Blagojevich, 52, had boycotted the first three days of the impeachment trial. But on Thursday, he went before the Senate to beg for his job, delivering a 47-minute plea that was, by turns, defiant, humble and sentimental.

He said he did nothing wrong, and warned that his impeachment would set a "dangerous and chilling precedent."

President Obama pledged to give Quinn his full cooperation.

"Today ends a painful episode for Illinois," Obama said Thursday night in a statement. "For months, the state had been crippled by a crisis of leadership. Now that cloud has lifted."

More than 30 lawmakers rose one by one on the Senate floor to denounce Blagojevich as a hypocrite, saying he tried to enrich himself but posed as the protector of the poor and "wrapped himself in the constitution."

They sprinkled their remarks with historical references, including Pearl Harbor's "day of infamy" and "The whole world is watching" chant from the riots that broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. They cited Abraham Lincoln, the Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus as they called for the governor's removal.

"We have this thing called impeachment and it's bleeping golden and we've used it the right way," Democratic Sen. James Meeks of Chicago said during the debate, mocking Blagojevich's expletive-laden words as captured by the FBI on a wiretap.

Blagojevich did not stick around to hear the vote. He took a state plane back to Chicago.

Blagojevich is removed from office in 59-0 vote 01/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 12:00am]
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