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Blagojevich hits TV as trial begins

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment trial opened Monday with a vacant chair reserved for the governor, who boycotted the proceedings and spent the day on the TV talk-show circuit in New York, complaining he is being railroaded.

“The fix is in,” Blagojevich declared on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

As the Illinois Senate assembled for the first impeachment trial of a U.S. governor in more than 20 years, David Ellis, the House-appointed prosecutor, told the chamber he will show that Blagojevich “repeatedly and utterly abused the powers and privileges of his office.”

In one of his first moves, Ellis won approval from the Senate to summon an FBI agent who oversaw the profanity-laden wiretaps that led to Blagojevich’s arrest on corruption charges last month.

Blagojevich refuses to present a defense, so Illinois’ Senate 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 the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama for a Cabinet position, a high paying job for himself or his wife, or campaign funds.

State senators maintained the trial will be fair, despite Blagojevich’s attacks on the process.

Blagojevich insists the remarks attributed to him have been taken out of context and that he has done nothing illegal.

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 an illegal trade.

“If you do an exchange of one for the other, that’s wrong,” he told ABC’s “Nightline,” according to a transcript of Monday night’s show. “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? Those are natural discussions people have. … Those are legitimate, honest discussions.”

Blagojevich also appeared on “The View,” talked to Geraldo Rivera of Fox News Channel, appeared in a taped interview on NBC’s “Today” and in person on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” He was scheduled to appear on CBS’ “The Early Show” today.

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