Deposed former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich believes the truth will set him free — free of serving jail time on corruption charges, free of continuing to be the butt of jokes from talk show hosts and political pundits.
Speaking exclusively to Meredith Vieira live on TODAY Tuesday, the ousted politico — sent packing by the Illinois State Senate in a unanimous vote last week — said he believes his likely trial on federal corruption charges will have a happier ending than the impeachment vote.
“This is America, and I still believe this is a place where, as it’s written in the Bible, the truth will set you free,” Blagojevich told Vieira. “I’m clinging to the truth, embracing the truth. I’ll ride the truth, and I’ll clear my name.”
Defiant and testy
Certainly, what Blagojevich regards as truth is a far different thing than what federal prosecutors believe. The six-year governor was arrested by FBI agents at his home on Dec. 9. He stands accused of trying to peddle President Barack Obama’s vacated Illinois U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, and also of making backroom deals in which he took political-campaign cash kickbacks in exchange for public funding.
The fiery 52-year-old was defiant on TODAY, using his machine-gun delivery to make a case for what he believes was political martyrdom. In an interview earlier in January with TODAY’s Amy Robach, he compared his plight to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi.
During a somewhat testy interview, Vieira repeatedly broke into Blagojevich’s long statements, in which he claimed he was railroaded out of office by his state’s senate. He told Vieira his ouster as governor was “a hijacking by a legislature that removed a governor and prevented that governor from proving his innocence by denying me the right to bring witnesses in.”
Blagojevich had repeatedly said he wouldn’t attend his impeachment trial. But in a reversal, he attended the fourth and final day of the trial and made an impassioned speech saying he “never, ever intended to violate the law.”
Vieira asked Blagojevich, “What does that mean, ‘I never intended’? You either did it or you didn’t do it.”
Blagojevich replied, “I think it speaks for itself. I did not intend to commit any criminal act; I’m not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. I’m eager to have my day in court to prove my innocence.”