SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Hours before a possible vote to remove him from office, Gov. RodBlagojevich is ending his boycott of his Senate impeachment trialThursday, planning a "passionate" speech in a last-ditch attempt tohold on to his job.
After avoiding the trial, Blagojevich reversed course Wednesdayand asked to make a closing argument, a move that comes days afteravoiding the proceedings that could remove him from office.
His request to speak shocked the Senate. Until now, Blagojevichhas boycotted the trial, calling it biased and unconstitutional.Lawmakers didn't know what to expect.
"Like so many others, I'm going to be on pins and needles justwaiting to see what he's going to be delivering us. It could beanything," said Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest.
Blagojevich was working past midnight Wednesday on his"passionate" speech that will explain why he decided to appear atthe trial, his public relations firm Thursday. The two-termgovernor, a Democrat, has denied wrongdoing.
Blagojevich will not testify, which involves taking an oath andanswering questions from the prosecutor and senators. Instead, hehas 90 minutes to deliver a closing statement.
Afterward, the House prosecutor has 30 minutes for a rebuttal.Then, senators then hold public deliberations, with each gettingfive minutes to speak. A vote on whether to convict, censure oracquit the governor could come later Thursday.
If Blagojevich is convicted, he will immediately be removed fromoffice and replaced by Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, a fellow Democrat.No other Illinois governor has been impeached, let alone convictedin a Senate trial.
Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst, called the decision "cowardly, butconsistent with the way he has governed."
Blagojevich, 52, was arrested last month on a variety of federalcorruption charges, including scheming to benefit from appointingPresident Barack Obama's Senate replacement and demanding campaigncontributions in exchange for state services.
He was impeached in the House on Jan. 9 for abuse of power. The13 accusations included plotting to give financial assistance tothe Tribune Co. only if members of the Chicago Tribune editorialboard were fired, awarding state contracts or permits in exchangefor campaign contributions and violating hiring and firinglaws.
In the Senate, the prosecution rested its case Wednesday, justthe third day of the unprecedented trial to decide whetherBlagojevich should be punished for abuse of power.
A conviction is all but certain. Blagojevich presented nodefense, and virtually the entire Illinois political establishmenthas turned against him. The House voted 117-1 to impeach him, andthe lone "no" vote came from his sister-in-law.
Despite the long odds, one of Blagojevich's few friends in theSenate scoffed at the idea of a resignation. It's just as likelysenators will see the Easter Bunny hopping through the Capitol,said Sen. James DeLeo, D-Chicago.
"I think he wants to be heard," DeLeo said.
Blagojevich repeatedly has said he won't resign. But he alsosaid he wouldn't take part in the trial.
While the Senate has considered accusations Blagojevich iscorrupt, the governor appeared on one New York news show afteranother to proclaim his innocence and declare the trial riggedagainst him.
"It's a kangaroo court," Blagojevich said Tuesday on Fox NewsChannel. "My lawyers and I believe that to be part of a processlike that is to dignify a fraudulent impeachment process that setsa dangerous precedent for governors in Illinois and governorsacross America."
But Wednesday afternoon, Blagojevich's acting chief of staffcontacted Senate President John Cullerton's chief of staff to askthat the governor be allowed to make a statement before the trialconcludes.
The governor will be acting as his own attorney. Ironically,Blagojevich often has talked about how badly he did in law school,joking that he barely knew where the law library was.
The case against Blagojevich, presented by House-appointedprosecutor David Ellis, included audio of secretly recordedconversations in which the governor appears to discuss demanding acampaign contribution in exchange for signing legislation. Senatorsalso heard from an FBI agent who vouched for the accuracy ofeye-popping Blagojevich quotes that were included in the criminalcomplaint against him.
And on Wednesday, senators heard testimony that Blagojevich andhis aides agreed to pay $2.6 million for doses of a European fluvaccine that never arrived since they were banned by the Food andDrug Administration.
Auditor General William Holland also testified to a long list ofmanagement irregularities under Blagojevich -- such as giving alucrative contract to a company that didn't officially exist.
Associated Press writers Deanna Bellandi in Chicago and AndreaZelinski in Springfield contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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