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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The legislative committee considering impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be at the beginning of its work or nearing the end, depending on the wishes of federal prosecutors.

If prosecutors give the OK, the Illinois House committee will explore the federal criminal charges against Blagojevich by interviewing his aides, reviewing documents and questioning witnesses to the actions that led to Blagojevich’s arrest.

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However, some committee members say they expect U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will steer them away from anything related to his investigation.

If that happens, the panel has little left on its agenda.

”I think we could wrap up our work within two days, maybe three,” the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Durkin, said Sunday.

Chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat like the governor, wouldn’t go quite so far. She said new issues could still come up and prolong the committee’s work, which began Tuesday.

The committee, which is supposed to produce a recommendation on whether lawmakers should pursue impeachment, hopes to hear Monday what limits prosecutors will suggest. Members have repeatedly said they will do nothing that prosecutors say would interfere the Blagojevich investigation.

Lawmakers said they’ll also hear testimony Monday on state jobs and contracts that Blagojevich gave to major campaign donors and on how prosecutors obtain permission to eavesdrop on their targets. Federal wiretaps are an important part of the case against Blagojevich, and his attorney has questioned their validity.

The governor was arrested Dec. 9 on a variety of federal corruption charges — including scheming to benefit from his power to name President-elect Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate.

The arrest, after years of questions about Blagojevich’s honesty and clashes with other state officials, prompted an avalanche of calls for his resignation.

Blagojevich declared Friday that he is innocent and will stay in office to fight the charges. ”I’m not going to quit a job that people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob,” he said.

So far, the committee has heard overviews of several complaints about the governor’s six years in office: Defying the Legislature by launching a health program that had been rejected, refusing to cooperate with government reviews, wasting money and withholding public information.

The committee has not delved into the details of each allegation. Members may seek more detail in a couple of areas, but generally they say an overview will be enough to come up with a recommendation on whether the full House should impeach.

”We’ve pretty well got to the bottom of complaints that the governor has abused his authority here, there or some place else,” Currie said.

The criminal complaint includes a sworn affidavit laying out some of the evidence. In addition, guilty pleas by others caught in the investigation contain other allegations against Blagojevich.

That might not be enough for a criminal conviction of the governor, lawmakers say, but it’s plenty for deciding whether to go forward with impeachment.

If the House approves impeaching Blagojevich, the Senate would hold a trial. It would take a two-thirds vote to remove him from office.

Source: NYTimes

US-POLITICS-OBAMA

KAILUA, Hawaii – He’s not the commander in chief yet, but was President-elect Barack Obama briefly practicing his salute on Sunday?

On the first morning of his vacation here, Mr. Obama arrived at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii for his daily workout. As he walked out of the Semper Fit Center, his gray T-shirt soaked in sweat, he lifted his right hand and gave a quick salute to two Marines in fatigues who were standing in the distance.

The brief moment was not captured by cameras. Photographs and video were not permitted to be taken on the military base, according to campaign aides.

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, opened their day with a 45-minute workout inside a large gymnasium at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which is located on the Mokapu Penninsula on the windward side of Oahu, about 30 minutes outside Honolulu. It is sunny and warm here, a world away, at least in terms of the weather, from Chicago.

The Marine base seemed sleepy when the motorcade rolled through shortly after 7 a.m. Home to the 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group 24 and the 3rd Radio Battalion, the base is located only a few minutes from where the Obamas are staying, a rented home at the end of a series of cul-de-sacs (and security barricades) along Kailuana Place.

Mr. Obama, who arrived to his native Hawaii on Saturday afternoon, is taking a 13-day holiday vacation with his family and a few friends from Chicago. At least some work, though, followed him to Hawaii.

He is receiving his daily national security briefing and his transition team is scheduled on Monday or Tuesday to release an internal review of any contacts between his advisers and the Illinois governor’s office over filling his vacant Senate seat. That is the subject of a corruption case and federal investigation into Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama is not expected to address the inquiry, but rather have it released through a written statement from Washington.

The president-elect, after filling his Cabinet in record-setting pace, is taking a break. On tap for the rest of his Sunday? An afternoon tee-time and 18 holes of golf.

Source: Caucus

Evangelical pastor says he loves ‘gays and straights,’ met Melissa Ethridge

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The first openly gay member of Congress said Sunday it was a mistake for President-elect Barack Obama to invite evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

“Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair,” Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a broadcast interview.

“If he was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing,” Frank said. “But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”

Under fire for opposing gay marriage, influential evangelical pastor Warren said Saturday that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Republicans and Democrats, and he also loves “gays and straights.”

Says it’s OK to disagree
The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.

“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” said Warren.

Warren also defended President-elect Barack Obama’s invitation that he give the invocation at the Jan. 20 inauguration in the keynote speech he delivered at the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s annual convention in Long Beach.

Obama’s choice of Warren earlier this week sparked outcry from gay rights and other liberal groups, who said choosing such an outspoken opponent of gay marriage was tantamount to endorsing bigotry.

“Three years ago I took enormous heat for inviting Barack Obama to my church because some of his views don’t agree (with mine),” he said. “Now he’s invited me.”

Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself: integrity, humility and generosity.

Obama defends ‘wide range of view points’
Obama defended his choice on Thursday, saying that he has also invited Joseph Lowery, a Methodist minister and civil rights leader who supports same-sex marriage and gay rights, to deliver the benediction.

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