Updated: Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009, 12:05 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009, 10:03 AM EST
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich began the second round of his media blitz Tuesday as state senators resumed the impeachment trial that could remove him from office within days.
Blagojevich continued to boycott the trial he calls unfair, remaining hundreds of miles away in New York City, where he told The Associated Press he hasn't ruled out taking legal action if legislators vote him out of office.
"I'll respect the law and the Constitution and the rules and whether or not there are legal remedies to pursue beyond this we haven't really discussed ... but I'm not going to rule out what some of those options might be," Blagojevich said.
The embattled Democrat reiterated claims that his impeachment trial is biased and he wants all his conversations recorded in the FBI's criminal investigation released to show he's innocent of federal corruption charges.
He has refused to discuss the criminal allegations and never has denied the remarks federal prosecutors attribute to him. But he insists they were taken out of context.
"In the end, a lot of it was talk and exploring ideas," Blagojevich told the AP. "I never, ever intended to violate any criminal law."
A handful of the FBI's tapes were to take center stage at the impeachment trial - the first for a U.S. governor in more than 20 years - that entered its second day Tuesday. The state Senate was to hear the secretly made wiretaps of Blagojevich allegedly discussing how he could benefit from his political power.
With Blagojevich refusing to be present or mount a defense, Illinois senators could vote within days on whether to oust the 52-year-old Democrat on a variety of charges, including allegations he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for a Cabinet position, a high paying job for himself or his wife or money to bankroll his future campaigns.
Before hearing the recordings, senators heard testimony from Daniel Cain - an FBI agent involved in the governor's wiretap who vouched for the accuracy of quotes contained in the federal criminal charges against Blagojevich.
House-appointed prosecutor David Ellis walked Cain through each quote attributed to Blagojevich in the charges, with Cain responding only "yes" and "that's accurate" to each.
The quotes include Blagojevich saying Obama's vacant Senate seat was valuable and wouldn't be given away for nothing and that the governor talked to aides about how to benefit from his appointment power, saying, "I want to make money."
The outcome of Blagojevich's impeachment trial has no legal impact on a separate criminal case against the governor. No trial date has been set on those charges.
Blagojevich spent Monday and Tuesday making the rounds of news shows in New York, declaring his innocence but refusing to discuss the criminal allegations he faces.
Pressed on what context would justify using Obama's Senate seat to land a job for himself, Blagojevich said he didn't try to make a trade.
"If you do an exchange of one for the other, that's wrong," he told ABC's "Nightline." ''But if you have discussions about the future and down the road and what you might want to do once you're no longer governor in a few years, what's wrong with that?"
Blagojevich told the AP he realizes he'll probably soon be out of a job, but said he won't resign because he didn't do anything wrong and doesn't want to send the wrong message to his children.
The Democratic governor has said he refused to take part in his impeachment trial because it was rigged against him. His political enemies, eager to get him out of the way so they can raise income taxes, won't let him call witnesses to prove his innocence, he complained.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense is allowed to summon any witnesses whose testimony might interfere with federal prosecutors' criminal case against Blagojevich, although their public statements could be introduced as evidence. But Blagojevich has not asked to call witnesses or present any evidence at all, and said he does not plan to participate in any way.
The impeachment case against Blagojevich also includes allegations he defied the Legislature, circumvented hiring laws and schemed to trade state contracts for campaign contributions.
Seats for Blagojevich and his attorney sat empty in the Senate chamber as the trial proceeded. Silence reigned when the presiding judge, Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald, asked if anyone was present to represent the governor.
He ordered the trial to go forward as if Blagojevich had entered a not guilty plea.
No other Illinois governor has been impeached, let alone convicted in a Senate trial. It would take a two-thirds majority - or 40 of the 59 senators - to remove Blagojevich. The Senate also could bar him from ever again holding office in Illinois.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn would replace him.
Practically the entire political establishment has lined up against Blagojevich. The last of two House votes on impeachment was 117-1, with his sister-in-law the only dissenter.
Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela in New York, Deanna Bellandi in Chicago and Christopher Wills in Springfield contributed to this report.
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