SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — If there's such a thing as a "normal" impeachment trial, the one that starts today in Illinois doesn't qualify.
The defendant, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, won't participate. And while the Democrat acknowledges his conviction is certain, he refuses to resign.
Blagojevich, 52, complains that the trial rules are unfair, but he and his lawyers didn't try to influence the rules as they were written or afterward.
After weeks of near silence, Blagojevich has begun an energetic public relations campaign, comparing himself to the hero of a Frank Capra movie and a cowboy being lynched for a crime he didn't commit. He said that when he was arrested on federal corruption charges, he took solace from other leaders who have been jailed.
"I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi" and that helped him gain perspective, he said in an interview that aired Sunday on Today.
The full interview will air today, the same day the impeachment trial starts and Blagojevich is scheduled to appear on Good Morning, America, The View and Larry King Live.
Legal experts see little benefit to Blagojevich from boycotting the trial while refusing to resign. The decision means he'll still be leaving office soon, but only after proceedings guaranteed to put him in a bad light.
Senators, and thus the public, will hear details of the criminal charges against Blagojevich. They're likely to hear recordings that allegedly reveal the governor talking about signing legislation in exchange for campaign contributions. And in addition to simply removing Blagojevich, the Senate could vote to bar him from ever again holding public office in Illinois.