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Illinois Senate Weighs Ousting Governor; Thousands More Jobs Cut; Conflict of Interest Questions

Aired January 29, 2009 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, breaking news -- a stunning showdown as the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, finally shows up at his impeachment trial, telling state senators to acquit him and let him show his innocence.

Thousands more jobs are cut at some of America's best known companies. And the number of Americans on unemployment already at the highest level in decades. Ali Velshi is standing by to tell us what it means for you.

And Michelle Obama -- she's speaking out now for the first time as first lady -- how she plans to define her new role in the White House. Stand by. We'll hear from the first lady this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: But first, the breaking news out of Springfield, Illinois, where the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, could be removed from office any moment now.

Let's go live to Springfield.

Susan Roesgen is working this story for us.

They're in the final steps before the final roll call.

SUSAN ROESGEN, GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. They are now -- each of the state senators -- 59 in all -- making little remarks, a few comments that's going to go into the historical record. And not one so far -- not one, Wolf, has said anything truly in favor of the governor. So far, I think about half have made a few remarks and every one of them looks like it's going to vote yes, let's take the governor out of office.

The governor had to come here today, Wolf, and make the speech of his life. He had to be Winston Churchill on the eve of D-Day. And I don't think the state senators were persuaded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY ILLINOIS INFORMATION SERVICE) GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: And I confess maybe I pushed too hard. I confess maybe I fight maybe too much. But I ask you to remember it isn't about me. My kids have -- it isn't about me. Charge it to my heart, charge it to a desire to help families I came from and life stories I've heard along the way in my life and as governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY ILLINOIS INFORMATION SERVICE)

DAVID ELLIS, ILLINOIS HOUSE PROSECUTOR: Well, I can't give a speech like the governor. I'm not a politician, I'm just a lawyer. When the cameras are on and he thinks people are listening, the governor can give a pretty good speech.

But I want to talk about the Rod Blagojevich when he's off- camera.

When the camera is off, what are his priorities, for not just some decisions, but, in his words, every decision?

"This decision, like every other one, needs to be based on that," speaking of the Senate seat -- "legal, personal, political."

Nothing in that statement about the people of the State of Illinois. Nothing in that statement about the little guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY ILLINOIS INFORMATION SERVICE)

BLAGOJEVICH: How can you throw a governor elected twice by the people out of office when the rules don't even require that you prove up elements of criminal allegations?

And more than that, how can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to give him a chance to bring witnesses in to prove his innocence?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELLIS: Being governor is not a right, it is a privilege. And he has forfeited that privilege. He has abused the power. He has traded it for personal gain time and time again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROESGEN: So what you have heard there, Wolf, is some of the governor's closing argument and then some of the rebuttal made by the impeachment prosecutor.

We do expect a vote here, Wolf, probably in the next hour or so. And you will be the first to get it.

BLITZER: Our viewers will know when we know. Susie, let's say he is voted to be removed from office. The lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, becomes the governor. But walk us through the process.

But how long would that process take?

ROESGEN: Well, Wolf, it could be almost instantaneous. Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn has said even as early as last week that he was prepared to come here to Springfield today to be sworn in in the state capital.

Wolf, he's a long time politician. He started out as a county commissioner. Then he was the state treasurer here in the early '90s.

He ran unsuccessfully against Governor Blagojevich in the governor's first term. And now he is in his second term as lieutenant governor. And he will probably be the new governor of the State of Illinois by tonight.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Susie Roesgen.

And like Blagojevich, Pat Quinn is himself a Democrat. They're both Democrats.

Let's bring in David Gergen right now, our senior political analyst.

It's an amazing situation. I believe if he is removed from office -- we've done some research -- he would be the eighth governor in American history to be removed from office.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, we've had a history of corruption in Illinois, as you know, in the governor's offices. And I think this is the most theatrical impeachment we've ever seen. But we're within a matter of hours for the curtain coming down on the Blagojevich show.

BLITZER: Maybe in the next hour here.

GERGEN: Yes, but I -- Wolf, he gave a strong statement today in Illinois. And I'm sure it will appeal to some people and some people will sense that there was some unfairness. He's made progress, I think, with this media circus he's put on.

But at the end of the day, these people have had to live with him in the legislature. They know how badly he's misgoverned the state for such a long time. And they -- if he had gone there and then had given that speech and then taken questions under oath, perhaps he could have saved himself. His refusal to do that, I think, was the final (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Because you're a lawyer. You went to law school.

GERGEN: Oh...

BLITZER: You went a long time ago. But his supporters are saying you know what, this is a kangaroo court. These guys made up their mind before they heard any of his -- any of the evidence out there.

GERGEN: Well, what we heard and the fact that, you know, the federal prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, you know, nailed him for it, legally, I think, was pretty convincing to a lot of people. We didn't -- after you hear that, I'm not sure you need a lot more to talk about and get a sense of the style of the person.

But, you know, this has been brewing for a long time. They wanted him out of there for a long time. And it almost has a recall sense to it, as opposed to a criminal trial sense. You know, we're just sick of this, you're hurting our state, we want somebody new.

BLITZER: All right. Let's make the turn now to the president of the United States, Barack Obama. He met with the new Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, today. And used the occasion to really get passionate about these huge bonuses that these CEOs are getting -- CEOs from companies who have received millions -- maybe billions of dollars -- from U.S. taxpayers.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That all of us are going to have responsibilities to get this economy moving again. And when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses, the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking poor taxpayers to help sustain them and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don't provide help, that the entire system could come down on top of our heads, that is the height of irresponsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He's outraged. A lot of Americans are outraged that the taxpayers are being played for suckers.

GERGEN: They've got incredible tin ears on Wall Street. I do not understand this. These are smart people. You know some of these people. I know them. I've had a lot of respect for them for a long -- a long number of years.

But I must say, in how they've handled the public end of this, whether it's the airplanes flying in from Detroit or the rugs on the floor and the -- you know, or the purchase of a $50 million aircraft or now this, these huge bonuses, what in the world are they thinking?

I mean it has made the politics so much rougher here in Washington -- made it so much easier to defeat the next TARP bill, which is coming.

You know, the president is to (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Financial bailout. GERGEN: He's about ready to go up and ask for a much bigger financial bailout.

BLITZER: Beyond the second $350 billion.

GERGEN: Beyond the second. Yes. And we're talking about the possible nationalization of banks.

They're going to push the American people into saying these guys are so greedy, they essentially ought to have -- be lassoed and restricted in all sorts of ways. And we're going to -- they're going to invite the kind of restrictions that will, in fact, make it more difficult to run political institutions.

BLITZER: I think you make a good point, because these corporations, if they don't take any money from taxpayers, let their shareholders and their boards deal with the compensation packages and all of that.

But if they're getting money from taxpayers, they've got to play by different rules.

GERGEN: Absolutely. And it's -- you know, these are -- these were terrifically well run a few years ago. And this, you know, power has gone to their heads. They've lost all sense of perspective.

You know, some -- look, and often, if you're an ambitious person, the biggest danger is when you get arrogant, when the rules no longer apply to you, when you're sort of living in the stratosphere. And we've seen presidents go down over this. Now we're seeing, you know, major figures on Wall Street.

BLITZER: David Gergen, thanks.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack.

He has "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Our sister publication, "Time Magazine," has a great piece about how the Republicans are trying to grapple with what "Time" calls President Obama's charm offensive. The article says that after President Obama met with Republicans on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to talk about that emergency stimulus package, a lot of them walked away gushing like they'd met their favorite rock star and admitting that the new Democratic president was paying more attention to them than their own Republican president, George Bush, ever did.

President Barack Obama is by no means the first one to meet with leaders of the other party to try to get a bill passed or to be open and willing to changes. And he even made calls to leaders of his own party requesting changes in legislation in order to get this thing through -- all in an effort to achieve the bipartisanship that he campaigned on. He even took it a step further. He hosted a cocktail reception at the White House for both Senate and House leaders from both sides of the aisle.

But his maneuvering may have backfired. The Republicans are staying away from attacking the popular president, who's only been in office a lot more than a week. But they aren't letting him coast on this thing.

The stimulus package passed the House yesterday without a single Republican vote -- perhaps a calculated move, so they won't be responsible if things don't turn around.

Of course, if they do turn around, those same Republicans might as well go stand in front of a bus.

Here's the question, then: How should Republicans handle President Obama's charm offensive?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack, for that.

American employers -- they're shedding jobs at an alarming rate. Now a new milestone is reached that is truly shocking. Ali Velshi is standing by to share it with us.

And allegations of a conflicts of interest in President Obama's stimulus plan -- billions of dollars for national parks now getting some extra scrutiny.

Plus, a new president and a new style over at the White House -- sometimes are out, cocktail parties sometimes are in.

What else might the future hold?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Well, we're getting word that the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, has now met with the current Russian prime minister, the former Russian president, Vladimir Putin. They're meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

What's going on here?

His wife is the secretary of State and he's meeting with the Russian prime minister. Paul Begala and Leslie Sanchez, they're standing by live. We'll discuss this latest development. Stand by.

The number of Americans on unemployment right now is at the highest level in more than 40 years and the situation is about to get even worse. Let's take a look at some of the new job cuts just announced. Airplane owner and maker Cessna eliminating 2,000 jobs. Drug maker AstraZeneca shedding 6,000 jobs. 1,200 positions are being cut at the credit arm of the Ford Motor Company and as many as 3,000 at Kodak; 1,050 by the truck maker, Oshkosh and more than 1,100 at Bon-Ton Department Stores, just to name a few.

Let's go our senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi, who's got more now on these jobless numbers.

It's really sad -- Ali, to see what's going on.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've just been hammered by job losses this week. You just named a few. We started the week -- Monday, more than 70,000 jobs lost in the United States. And every day since then, more than 10,000.

Now, we got the jobs for the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. These are people who lined up for the first time to get unemployment benefits -- 588,000. Nearly 600,000 people. That is incredible, that number.

You take the people who are on unemployment, add this to it and you've got the number of people on continuing unemployment benefits at the highest level that we have ever recorded, in fact. It's the highest in 40 years, because we only started recording them 40 years ago. 4.7 -- almost 4.8 million people are collecting unemployment benefits in the United States.

Many more people are unemployed, but they're off the rolls. They've run out of benefits, Wolf.

So this is the serious situation. When we talk about getting out of the recession, it's the American consumer who is not spending.

When you go on unemployment, you're a net recipient of money and you're certainly not spending as much. That is the problem that the Obama administration has got to try and tackle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a huge problem.

Now, the Obama White House, as you know, Ali, says they -- their recovery plan will either create or save three to four million jobs.

What kind of jobs are we largely talking about?

VELSHI: Well, you know, they're an entirely different set of jobs than they would have been if there weren't an economic recovery plan, because most of our job losses have been in things like construction and manufacturing.

But look at what they say the stimulus and recovery program will do to, as you say, create or save some jobs -- 678,000 jobs in construction.

Where else is there construction in a recession?

Manufacturing -- 408,000. Most of the job losses that we talked about for the last couple of years have been in manufacturing.

604,000 in retail. We've been shedding retail jobs. But the administration thinks that its stimulus will cause people to want to buy things.

Education and health -- only 240,000 created in that sector. That's because those are already growing sectors. Those are some of the only two areas where there is job growth.

Tourism -- 499,000. That's an area where things have suffered. But, again, if people have some money in their pocket, they'll think about traveling, going to hotels and resorts.

And 244,000 jobs in government. You'll notice government and education and health care, not as much growth under the stimulus plan, because those are areas that have been growing even while everybody else has been shedding.

But interesting, that if you are thinking about retraining for something, you're looking for a place to work, your vision of what you can do changes if a stimulus program goes through versus not having one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A good point, Ali.

Thank you.

There's one item in that economic recovery plan that's raising some accusations of possible -- possible conflict of interest.

Brian Todd has been working this story for us.

What's going on -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, so much of this bill now is being picked apart on the House side. It's become a real partisan fight in that body of Congress, even when it comes to something millions of people believe should get government money.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): New questions about why the National Park Service might receive an amount in the stimulus package that's roughly the size of its entire annual budget -- about $2 billion. There's been concern for many years that America's treasured national parks are under funded and in disrepair.

What's raised some eyebrows is that one of the authors of the stimulus bill is powerful Democratic House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey. His son Craig is a lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association, which often pushes for funding for the parks.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: We think he had to be aware of his -- his son's connection. TODD: Republican Congressman Darrell Issa called for an investigation into the Park Service money after the story was first reported in "The Washington Times".

Congressman Obey's aides said he was not available to speak with us. But they say there was no conversation between the congressman and his son about money for the parks.

Congressman Issa is not buying it.

ISSA: I have a son who's 28 years old. Every time somebody comes to dinner, the conversation is -- is a form of communication about what is your job, how is it going, what do you need?

TODD: The national parks lobbying group said Craig Obey was not available to speak with us. But we asked another official there, is there no chance the father and son could have spoken casually at family gatherings about park money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't say that there's no chance, because I'm not at the dinner table. But I know that both Chairman Obey and Craig are very, very conscious and astute of questions such as this arising.

TODD: Also, Tom Hill and other advocates say places like Going- to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park have long been in desperate need of new maintenance. About $9 billion that's built up over the past several years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, as for this new money in the stimulus, an aide to Congressman Obey says the request for that actually came from another Congressman, Democrat Norm Dix of Washington State. But Dix serves right under Chairman Obey on that Appropriations Committee and Congressman Issa believes there's a connection there.

We contacted Congressman Dix's office. They vehemently denied any connection there. An aide to Dix said he did request the money, but said the national parks have been a passionate cause of Congressman Dix since well before David Obey became chairman of that committee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff.

Thanks very much for that, Brian.

Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States, she's now speaking out for the first time since her husband became president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: This legislation is an important step forward, particularly at a time when so many families are facing economic insecurity and instability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to hear a lot more from Michelle Obama, the first lady. We have details of the bill that she feels so strongly about.

Plus, an incident that caused an international uproar and now immortalized in art. The statue inspired by this notorious scene

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Stand by to hear from the first lady, Michelle Obama. She's speaking out now for the first time since her husband became president. We're going to have her remarks. That's coming up. I think you're going to want to hear them.

In the meantime, let's check back with Zain Verjee.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Iraq's Interior Ministry will not renew the operating license of security firm Blackwater Worldwide. A Ministry official cites a September 2007 shooting incident in which security guards employed by Blackwater fired upon and killed 17 Iraqis. Blackwater, which has protected U.S. diplomats, has one of the biggest security contracts in Iraq.

It was the shoe hurling incident in Iraq seen and heard around the world -- and now it's larger than life. Take a look at this -- a fiberglass and copper statue of one of the shoes so famously tossed at then President Bush in December has been unveiled. This is in Tikrit. The artists are dedicating the work to the Iraqi people. Now, on that monument, there's an inscription -- there's a poem that honors the journalist who threw his shoe at Mr. Bush.

The Gulf of Aden is living up to its reputation as one of the world's most dangerous shipping lanes. Pirates today hijacked a German tanker loaded with liquefied petroleum gas. More than 40 vessels have been hijacked off Somalia's coast in the past year. And 10 are still being held. But some inroads are being made. The French Navy captured nine Somali pirates Tuesday. It's determining whether to hand them over to Somalia.

And, Wolf, early morning drivers in Austin, Texas, really got a wakeup call. Several electronic road signs were warning them to get out of the area because zombies were lurking overhead. Now, some drivers were pretty amused, but the authorities don't find it funny at all. They are looking for whoever hacked into the system to post the bogus messages. Officials say that it's a serious crime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right, Zain, thank you for that.

President Obama wants to deliver an address in a Muslim capital and the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, has some advice on where President Obama should do it. But more of my one-on- one my interview with Jimmy Carter. That's coming up.

And two Clintons are now on the world stage -- the former president still hobnobbing with foreign leaders.

Which Clinton will they pay more attention to?

And she's speaking out for the first time as first lady. The first lady, Michelle Obama, talking about how she plans to define her new role in the White House.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Jimmy Carter speaking out on President Barack Obama's offer of friendship to the Muslim world.

Does the former president think this could be a breakthrough for Middle East peace?

He's revealing all to us. Stand by.

And no jackets required -- the new look over at the Obama White House and a big break with the Bush tradition.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Michelle Obama is speaking out for the first time as first lady. She held a White House reception today following the signing of the Ledbetter Act, giving workers more time now to file pay discrimination lawsuits. It's named after Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama grandmother who discovered a huge pay discrepancy with her male coworkers after a 19 year career, only to be told it was too late for her to sue.

The new law greatly expands the window for discrimination claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: I had the opportunity to meet Lilly during the campaign and to hear her story.

First, of all, she is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Anyone who meets with Lilly can't help but be impressed by her commitment, her dedication, her focus. She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do -- plain and simple.

In traveling across the country over the past two years, Lilly's story and the broader issue of equal pay was a concern voiced over and over and over again. It was a top and critical priority for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds -- older women, younger women, women with disabilities -- and their families.

This legislation is an important step forward, particularly at a time when so many families are facing economic insecurity and instability. It's also one cornerstone of a broader commitment to address the needs of working women who are looking to us to not only ensure that they're treated fairly, but also to ensure there are policies in place that help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic stability at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I spoke about the first lady, Michelle Obama with Gwen Ifill, the moderator of Washington Week Review on PBS and the author of "The Breakthrough," a new best seller on the issue of politics and race in the age of Obama. I asked Gwen if the first lady is part of the breakthrough generation she writes about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GWEN IFILL, MODERATOR, "WASHINGTON WEEK": She's similar in a different way. Michelle Obama like Barack Obama, went to law school, Ivy League, very accomplished, had her own career. It that respect she's a lot more like Hillary Clinton than she is like her own husband because women breaking through is a little slightly different thing, especially in such kind of a high bound and well-defined institution as first lady. People will be watching very carefully to see what kind of tight rope she manages to walk, mostly because the first lady's job has always been defined as visiting schools and reading to children and picking the china and one can suspect that Michelle Obama has different ways of putting that together.

With that said, she's a breakthrough in that like these breakthrough candidates in politics. She took advantage of the doors that were opened for her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: By the way, you can see the complete interview with Gwen Ifill. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM this Saturday. Our new Saturday edition of THE SITUATION ROOM 6:00 p.m. eastern, 3:00 p.m. pacific only here on CNN.

Let's bring in our political contributors, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

First time out there, the first lady is speaking. I think she's got a lot of challenges ahead of her, but I think she's up to the job.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well she is. She's a remarkable person. Most of the women I know want to be her. Most of the guys I know want to date her. I mean she's just like the new hot thing. But she said something remarkable in the campaign. Someone asked her what would be your first lady platform. That's a pretty standard question for candidates' spouses and she said, you know, to make sure my kids have their heads on straight. That's my first job.

This is a woman as Gwen Ifill pointed out in that interview, Ivy League law degree, an accomplished attorney, an activist, a hospital executive, has done so many things, but the very most important thing is making sure those kids' heads are on straight. Today, she stands up and makes a statement about the equal pay for women, something she campaigned on. Nobody has it all, but she sure looks like she does.

BLITZER: She certainly does. What do you think, Leslie?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think she's pioneering a new role, a new image of what the first lady would be like. I think it's breaking - on the shoulders of the successes of our previous first ladies but it's different. She's so unique. And it's interesting. She talked about family, the first year, I want to get my bearings and protect the children, but right off the bat, one of the most boldest areas, an area of controversy even among women's organizations.

BLITZER: But the fact is she's making it clear in the first week she's devoted to making sure her two little girls they went to the new school, she got everything organized. That was priority and remains as it should be priority number one.

SANCHEZ: What I like about it is that she's showing she's a mom and she can continue to embrace these very important issues on an intellectual basis. I think she's balancing the two so far very well.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about you former boss, Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, causing some questions out there right now in Switzerland where there's this big economic forum. You go every year, not this year Paul. Let's talk about the fact that he had a meeting with the Russian prime minister, the former president, whom many regard as the real leader of Russia right now, Vladimir Putin. Is this something that could his complicate his wife, the secretary of state?

BEGALA: They've been a team for over 30 years and yet just like Barack Obama and the transition we only have one president at a time, we only have one secretary of state at a time and there's no doubt it is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But Bill Clinton is a force multiplier. He goes over there and where ever he goes, he represents the United States as all former presidents do and he had a wonderful moment. Yes he went and had a vodka apparently with Putin. They had a 90 minute meeting. Then he spoke. Putin had really slapped the United States, really insulted America, saying our economic program was too much government intervention in the markets which is the height I think of arrogance coming and hypocrisy coming from Putin. So President Clinton said, this is the first time I've heard Prime Minister Putin come out for free enterprise. I hope it works out for him. Everybody laughed. He put him in his place with some humor and grace but I don't think he crossed any lines. I think it was great for America to have someone there defending us.

BLITZER: Did it cross any lines?

SANCHEZ: I think it does. Let's be fair. Ethics lawyers can debate this back and forth you know in terms of how that looks but the optics were clear. I think the people I talked to some folks at the State Department and some folks in Foreign Service and they said that a challenge especially when you have two powerful spouses. We know that presidents like to opine on a variety of different things but did he disclose privately or publicly, look, I'm speaking for myself or my foundation or something else. Is it understood by the other party that I'm speaking for myself or does he leave the impression that he has easy access. He has somebody who's connected to the Foreign Policy team of Barack Obama. That's the question.

BLITZER: Guys, hold on for one second.

The debate has concluded on the floor of the Senate in Springfield, Illinois. We're talking about the impeachment trial of the governor Rod Blagojevich. The role call is about to begin.

There are 59 senators in Illinois. If 40 of them vote to remove Blagojevich, he will become the eight governor in American history to be removed from office and by all accounts, it looks like there will be more than 40 senators who will vote to remove him despite his last minute personal appeal today earlier today before the Senate in the state of Illinois. Paul Begala and Leslie Sanchez are still here with us. What do you think about this drama unfolding in Illinois?

BEGALA: It is -- it's important and it's historic, but not in doubt. Democrats and Republicans agree. He's a Democratic governor, an embarrassment to my party --

BLITZER: Hold on one second. The chief justice of the state Supreme Court is speaking now. I want to listen in.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED, JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Favor of disqualification that impeachment rule 24 requires me to pronounce judgment of disqualification. We will proceed to vote on the first question and you may be seated. When the secretary calls your name in alphabetical order, senators should rise. Wait for your microphone, state your answer, yes or no, and by voting the corresponding switch.

Pursuant to Senate rules, you may not explain your vote.

I charge you with your oath to do justice according to law in answering questions. Shall the Senate sustain the article of impeachment against Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and remove him from the office of governor.

Madame Secretary please call the names of each senator and record their responses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bivens.

BIVENS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bumki.

BUMKI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bond.

BOND: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brady.

BRADY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Berzski.

BERZSKI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Claiborne.

CLAIBORNE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Collins.

COLLINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cronin.

CRONIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crowdy.

CROWDY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dahl.

DAHL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daleo. Delgado.

DELGADO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dimizio.

DIMIZIO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dillard.

DILLARD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Duffy. DUFFY: Yes.

BLITZER: They're moving quickly. Remember, 40, the magic number. If 40 vote yes, he's out. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Garrett.

GARRETT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hain.

HAIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harmon.

HARMON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Henden.

HENDEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holmes. Holtzgren.

HOLTZGREN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hunter.

HUNTER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hutchinson. Jacobs.

JACOBS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emile Jones.

EMILE JONES: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Jones.

JOHN JONES: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kaylor. Katowski.

KATOWSKI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lawsen.

LAWSEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lightford. Link.

LINK: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Luktfield.

LUKTFIELD: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maloney.

MALONEY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martinez.

MARTINEZ: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meeks.

MEEKS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millner.

MILLNER: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. So that's it, more than 40 senators in Illinois have voted yes, meaning they're voting to remove Rod Blagojevich as the governor of Illinois. You need 40 of 59 and now, there are more than 40, so he is out and there will be a new governor of Illinois. The lieutenant governor, also a Democrat, Pat Quinn will be sworn in. Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the House and has been convicted by the Senate and it looks like it's over with for him despite another vote coming up as well, but the handwriting clearly is on the wall as we watch what's going on. Let's talk about the legal consequences of what's going on. Jeff Toobin is our senior legal analyst.

You know he made his case at the last minute but clearly it was not enough Jeff.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's putting it mildly, Wolf. He doesn't appear to be getting one vote in his support in the Senate. This was a business spectacle, this defense. He never actually addressed the issues before. He never offered any testimony. This was a wall to wall fiasco which ended in the worst possible result for Blagojevich.

BLITZER: The house in Illinois voted almost unanimously to impeach him and now the Senate looks like -- I don't know if anyone is voting no, but we'll get the final role call. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --

BLITZER: All right. It looks like they're having troubles with their audio on the floor of the state Senate in Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is being removed as the sitting governor of the state of Illinois. He's been convicted by the Illinois Senate and he becomes the eighth governor in U.S. history to be impeached and removed from office. Roland Martin is our analyst and a long time resident of Illinois in Chicago.

What do you think?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm thinking about James Brown's song, "The Big Payback." In many ways, that's what today's vote is. Set aside the stunning arrest of the governor in December. This is a governor who has not gotten many friends in the Illinois assembly over the last two or three years.

BLITZER: Hold on. We're going to hear the official announcement.

MARTIN: Sure.

BLITZER: We're waiting for the official announcement that Rod Blagojevich has now been convicted, removed from office by the state Senate and we'll get the official tally as well. We were talking to Roland Martin. Don Lemon is also standing by. He's covered this story for a long time. Jeff Toobin is also here. We want to hear from the state Supreme Court justice with the official announcement. Looks like they're waiting for the final announcement to come forward. As we await the official word on the fate of the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, let me bring back Roland Martin for a second. You're watching and listening as all of us are.

MARTIN: Again, I said this is not somebody who's built a lot of friends. Mike Madigan, these two individuals hate each other. Madigan would often not show up at meetings with the governor. The only friend he had quite frankly was Emeel Jones and he announced he was stepping down. So besides the stunning arrest, this, general assembly has major problems with them going over their heads, making his own decisions and frankly, this is payback to the nth degree. They said there was not one person who voted no. Not to impeach him.

BLITZER: In the House, correct me if I'm wrong, it was nearly unanimous. I think there was one who voted against impeachment.

MARTIN: Milton Patterson, his position was how could we vote to impeach somebody who had only been charged and not convicted. The people voting yes had serious problems with him not being able to call witnesses and for this case not going to trial. State Senator Ricky Hendon said he was troubled by that. They had concerns impeaching a governor who had not gone through criminal trial, but clearly were not going to go against the rule of the state. He has lost all kind of public support and so trust me, not a lot of folks in Illinois will be sad to see Rod Blagojevich go.

BLITZER: He's leaving pretty soon.

MARTIN: They already, the bags were already packed at the Illinois mansion. Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn was already ready. The moment he is impeached, he is no longer governor. He will be ushered out of the office. I just called the Illinois governor's office, they said call his PR firm. At the moment they make this announcement, he'll be stripped of everything and he'll be sent home to Chicago.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Don Lemon has covered Chicago and Illinois politics for a long time, our CNN anchor.

Don, as you watch the scene unfold, as historic as it is, only the eighth time in American history that a sitting governor has been remove Friday office. What goes through your mind?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's interesting. The eighth governor, but the second Serbian governor. Serbian Americans are very proud of Rod Blagojevich, but today that's not the case. This speaks to not that Rod Blagojevich is being accused of selling Barack Obama's former Senate seat, but it speaks to a bigger question of a pattern of corruption and questionable practices by Rod Blagojevich for years. He has been under the microscope for this. It's not about him being proven guilty or not being proven guilty. This is about a past.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on. I want to hear what they are saying. Let's listen in to the Supreme Court justice Thomas Fitzgerald.

THOMAS FITZGERALD, CHIEF JUSTICE, ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT: Shall the Senate sustain the article of impeachment against Rod R. Blagojevich and remove him from the office of governor? The voting is open.

BLITZER: What they are going to do is redo the vote to make sure it was as we all saw it unfold. They are going to have a second roll call right now. I assume it will be almost exactly the same if not exactly the same. This is an electronic vote. Right now I think what happened is they did the roll call and they had everyone announce and they are doing the electronic roll call to make sure everyone is on the same page. Is that right?

TOOBIN: Actually I think what happened is chief justice John Roberts is in charge of this as well.

BLITZER: He is being funny.

TOOBIN: I think there was or might have been a slight difference between the electronic count and --

BLITZER: Hold on, Jeff. Let's listen in.

FITZGERALD: The constitutional majority, I pronounce the judgment of conviction against Rod Blagojevich, there by removing him from the office of governor effective immediately. Is there a motion to disqualify the governor from holding future office of the state? Senator? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now having been convicted of impeachment, I move that Rod R. Blagojevich be disqualified from holding future office of the state.

FITZGERALD: Is there a second to the motion?

BLITZER: All right. We just lost that transmission from the Illinois state Senate, but it's official. The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich has been removed. He was convicted after he was impeached by the House in Illinois. He is now been convicted. He is convicted in the Senate. It sounded and I didn't get the official tally. In order to convict and remove from office, he needed 40 out of the 59 senators. He had many more than that. I didn't hear any nay votes against conviction. Let me bring in Susie Roesgen in Springfield.

Do you have the final tally?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like you said, I think a couple of senators were absent and didn't vote. I think that might be pauses we heard. What they are voting for is what they called the political death penalty. They got a motion to say that the governor should never be allowed to hold public office in the state again. What a fall from grace for a man who just a few years ago almost at the same time that he became governor the first time announced his desire to be president of the United States. He really believed that that was his future and he was on a fast track to be the president. Now the state Senate here is voting behind me to go ahead and see if they can not only convict him and remove him from the governor's chair, but they are voting on whether or not he should ever be allowed to hold political office in the state o state.

BLITZER: The vote is underway to ban him from seeking political office in the state of Illinois. Let's listen into the role call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Claiborne. Collins.

COLLINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cronin.

CRONIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crotty.

Dahl.

DAHL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deleo.

DELEO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Delgado.

DELGADO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Demuzio.

DEMUZIO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dillard.

DILLARD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Duffy.

DUFFY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forbee.

FORBEE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frerichs.

FRERICHS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Garret.

GARRET: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Haine.

HAINE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harmon.

HARMON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hendon.

HENDON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holmes.

HOLMES: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hultgren.

HULTGREN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hunter.

HUNTER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hutchinson.

HUTCHINSON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jacobs.

JACOBS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emile Jones.

EMILE JONES: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Jones.

JOHN JONES: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Koehler.

KOEHLER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kotowski.

KOTOWSKI: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lawsen.

LAWSEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lightford.

LIGHTFORD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Link.

LINK: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Luechtefeld.

LUECHTEFELD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maloney.

MALONEY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martinez.

MARTINEZ: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meeks.

MEEKS: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millner.

MILLNER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Munoz.

MUNOZ: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Murphy.

MURPHY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Noland.

BLITZER: Now they are beyond 40 on this second roll call to ban Rod Blagojevich from ever seeking public office in the state of Illinois. The first vote to remove him from office was unanimous, 59 voting in favor of removal. There was no one, no one in the Illinois Senate who voted to allow him to stay on as governor and looks like the second roll call is shaping up the same way. Susie Roesgen is in Springfield. She's watching and listening together with all of us.

Is this it? No more roll calls after this one?

ROESGEN: No, I think this is it, Wolf. The next thing is for the lieutenant governor Pat Quinn to come into the statehouse in the capital and take the oath of office to become the governor. Rod Blagojevich is back in Chicago and made a few remarks at his house after he flew back right after he made the closing argument. He is out of the picture entirely politically in the state of Illinois.

BLITZER: Very dramatic historic developments unfolding in the state of Illinois. Let me bring back Jeff and ask you the legal question. Did he make a major blunder refusing to testify to bring his own defense before this trial in the state Senate?

TOOBIN: Clearly he made a mistake by not presenting a defense. This was not an airtight case against him. There a lot of questions about whether there was an illegal quid proquo in terms of --

BLITZER: Hold on a second. He is announcing the results of this vote. Let's listen in.

FITZGERALD: The constitutional majority having voted in favor of the question, I now pronounce judgment of disqualification of Rod Blagojevich disqualifying him from holding future office of the state effective immediately.

BLITZER: He's gone from Illinois governorship and also gone from politics in the state of Illinois. Paul, what do you think about this historic and dramatic development?

BEGALA: You know, he had it coming. It wasn't just a case of a guy who annoyed and as he tried to say pushed too hard to do good things. There serious allegations of the worst public faith. Patrick Fitzgerald is right in the charges that he brought forth. He was trying to sell the Senate seat that was held by the president of the United States. He allegedly even shaking down an executive from a children's hospital. This is the sort of thing that is so far beyond.

BLITZER: Very quickly Leslie.

SANCHEZ: Something the Democrats wish they handled sooner. They had the opportunity to get this done and push for a special election and it wasn't done and everyone is glad it's over with. The Republicans are saying there were a lot of offenses that were around in his November of 2006 race that people should be paying attention to.

BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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