Gov. Blagojevich: 'I Know I've Done Nothing Wrong'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," January 27, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, the tapes. We've all been waiting to hear the FBI wiretaps of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, and now you will -- well, at least some of the tapes, and parts of the tapes. The governor wants you to hear all of the tapes, but the FBI and the Illinois senate say no. The FBI selected portions of some of the tapes that were played at the governor's Illinois state senate trial today.

Now, the governor will be here to go "On the Record" in a moment, but first let's go to these tapes, at least some of the tapes. The FBI won't let you hear all of them. In this first wiretap, the governor is talking to lobbyist Lon Monk. Monk is urging the governor to call John Johnston, a horse-racing executive in Illinois. Now, according to federal prosecutors, the governor and Monk are applying pressure to Johnston, trying to get him to contribute $100,000 to the governor's reelection campaign. Blagojevich allegedly tried to leverage the money from Johnston by suggesting he would support a bill that would give money to the Illinois racing industry.



LON MONK, LOBBYIST: How are you?


MONK: So one thing I was thinking about last night is that you ought to give -- not today but maybe tomorrow -- just give John Johnston a call and say, you know, Calling just to say hello, you know, I'm working on the timing of this thing, but it's going to get done.


MONK: It's -- it's...

BLAGOJEVICH: Call him tomorrow?

MONK: It's a two -- it's a two-minute conversation.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, happy to do it. Call him tomorrow, right?

MONK: Yes.

BLAGOJEVICH: OK. Call Johnny Johnston, or should I call -- have Harris call him? I mean, if you want me to call him directly, I will. Whatever's the best thing. I'm just a little bit...

MONK: I think it's better if you do it.


MONK: It's better if you do it, just from a pressure point of view.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes. Good. I'll call him and say we'll -- and we want to do an event down -- down -- downstate.

MONK: Right.

BLAGOJEVICH: We want to do it and hope -- hope to do this so we can get together and start picking some dates to do a bill signing, right?

MONK: OK. So what are -- what are the chances, based on my conversation with you yesterday, that this gets done next week?

BLAGOJEVICH: You know, they're good.


VAN SUSTEREN: In this next partial wiretap, the governor is talking to his brother, Rob Blagojevich. Rob tells the governor that the alleged pressure put on Johnston has paid off.




GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: How're we doing?

ROB BLAGOJEVICH: Good. Talked to Lon, and he says Johnny Johnston's good for it.


ROB BLAGOJEVICH: He's going to give you -- you know, he didn't get it, but he said, you know, I'm good for it. I got to just decide what -- what account to get it out of. And Lon's going to talk to you about some sensitivities legislatively tonight when he sees you with regard to timing of all of this.

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Right. Before the end of the year, though, right?


VAN SUSTEREN: An important note. The racing executive insists he never gave any money to Governor Blagojevich as part of a pay-to-play scheme. Now, that being said, we've now heard the governor of Illinois caught on tape by secret wiretaps.

Moments ago, the governor went "On the Record," and he was well aware that the cameras were rolling.


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, it's nice to see you.

BLAGOJEVICH: Thanks for having me, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) How many interviews have you done, any clue, since you got her?

BLAGOJEVICH: I've lost count. I think it's more than three.

VAN SUSTEREN: More than -- it definitely is more than three because you've actually done one with us last night, and you've done one with a lot of my colleagues, a lot of the networks and everything. You tired?

BLAGOJEVICH: No, I'm filled with all kinds of energy, eager to, you know, do the best I can to tell the people who are listening that I haven't done anything wrong and that I sure would like an opportunity in an impeachment that's taking place in my home state, in Illinois, to do something basic and fundamental, and that is bring witnesses in and evidence in to show that I've done nothing wrong.

And that evidence would include every single conversation taped of the telephone conversations that were taped that I was involved in. I'd like every one of those to be heard in the impeachment trial, as well as everybody who was talked about, from Rahm Emanuel to Harry Reid to whomever, to have a chance to come in and testify as to whether or not their conversations with me were anything but appropriate. And if I was given that opportunity, then I can begin the process of clearing my name. And that obviously is, if you're in my position, a very important thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you and I actually agree on that. I mean, I'm a lawyer, you're a lawyer, and I think that everyone should be able to present his or her defense, calling witnesses, not partial tapes, but complete tapes. And so you and I are on the same page on that. But as a practical matter, you're in a heap of trouble. You know, any time you've got the possibility of an indictment breathing down your neck, you got trouble.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there's no question about it. This is not -- this is not -- you know, I can't say that this is the best time of my life. But see, I have personal knowledge, and I know that I've done nothing wrong.

VAN SUSTEREN: Personal knowledge? Come on. I mean, you were a prosecutor. You know personal knowledge -- you can -- you can indict a ham sandwich. Innocent people are convicted. Guilty people are found innocent every day. You know, you've got a serious situation. And I know that you're making sort of a -- you know, a whirlwind tour here and hitting everybody in the media, and I think everybody agrees you ought be able to present your case. Bottom line, though, is that underlying all that is a major problem for you.

BLAGOJEVICH: It's a challenge. But again, if you still believe in the truth and you still believe that you'll get a fair opportunity to present that truth -- I'm not getting it in the impeachment trial. And worse than that, the people of Illinois are being deprived of that because they've elected me twice. Before a legislative body throws a governor out elected twice by the people, they ought to at least give that governor a chance to show he didn't do anything wrong, which they're denying. I can't even bring witnesses. They don't even have to prove up serious criminal allegations. They don't have to prove them up. Whatever happened to that requirement in America? But...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you assume you're going down on the -- on the -- on the governor's job, that you're going to -- you're going to be tossed out. You expect to lose that?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, unless they change the rules. It was obvious to me when we first learned of these rules better than a week ago that the fix was in, that his is, you know, a kangaroo court all designed to remove me and that my fellow Democrats, interestingly enough, they're going to push through a big tax increase. And there's -- among their motivations to rush to judgment is a desire to raise the income tax on people in Illinois, an income tax increase that I fought for six years and prevented a lot of my fellow Democrats from actually enacting.

VAN SUSTEREN: So this is a vendetta against you within your own party?

BLAGOJEVICH: No. It's an effort, as a practical matter, to finally get that income tax increase that they wanted. They have their opportunity because of these allegations that were brought against me. And coupled with the political dynamic, which is pretty clear, that you'd like to try to avoid something like that, I think is -- the convergence of those things have created an environment where these -- my -- that the senate leadership has decided to put together rules that are in violation of every constitutional principle we in America enjoy, one of the most fundamental being that you have a right to confront your accusers, bring evidence and show that if someone said you did something wrong, you didn't do anything wrong.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let's get to some of those allegations that are coming out in the senate trial on the table. Did you do -- you know the allegation about the children's hospital, that it was basically, you know, You're not going to get what you want unless you make the contribution. You got that one. Yes or no, did you do that?

BLAGOJEVICH: No. Absolutely not.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what does that conversation mean, then, the ones that were taped about that?

BLAGOJEVICH: I haven't had a chance to hear or see those tapes. I don't fear them because if they're all heard in the proper context, then the full story will be told.

VAN SUSTEREN: I actually -- by the way, I'd agree to have those -- the tapes heard. What I don't understand -- and I don't mean to put you in a position of having to explain the federal prosecutor -- is that he comes out in early December with this press conference and still hasn't indicted you, and in fact, asked for more time to indict you. And yet the senate pushes ahead. Either the prosecutor should put up or shut up and indict you, or the senate should wait. I mean -- I mean...

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, you're preaching to the choir...

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no. I understand that. I mean, I understand that. When you ask them about this -- I mean, are your lawyers going to the federal prosecutor and saying, Look, when's an indictment likely to come? Are they doing that?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I'm not in a position to comment about what the lawyers are doing and how they're handling this. I mean, we have a team that we're still putting together. But what's immediate is this impeachment trial. And again, if I have a chance to bring all those tapes...

VAN SUSTEREN: But that's going to be -- that's going to be the least of your problems, the impeachment trial. I mean, as -- yes, you are likely to lose your job, and I understand your position. You want to hear all the tapes. I'm with you on that. I mean, I think you should have witnesses. I think you should have full tapes. But your bigger problem -- and I know you say your innocent, but you and I have both, you know, been lawyers and see what happens in the courtroom. Your bigger problem is you got a federal prosecutor breathing down your neck saying he's going to indict you. That's your bigger problem.

BLAGOJEVICH: That's a big -- that's a big challenge, of course it is, and it's a bad thing to have to go through something like that. But here again, I still believe in the American system and I believe the truth is what it is, and the truth will come out and the truth will set me free.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't think that's naive? I mean, look at all the people -- look -- to take an extreme example, all the people on death row, over 100 of them have been exonerated because DNA showed they didn't have anything to do with it. You know, the system isn't perfect. The system is flawed.

BLAGOJEVICH: The system is very, very flawed.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama -- have you had any conversation with him in the last eight months?

BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, eight months? Oh, yes. Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anything about that senate seat?

BLAGOJEVICH: I saw him at Independence Hall with all the governors.


BLAGOJEVICH: Well, yes, it was the week before.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ever talk to him about the senate seat?


VAN SUSTEREN: Are there any Illinois politicians, I mean, including someone like Senator Dick Durbin -- has anybody called you up and said, you know, I'm behind you, I'm with you, or are they all -- sort of run away from you like you have the plague?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, you know how politicians are. You're asking an obvious question. You know how most politicians are. You know, Dr. King had a statement that he said, In the end, you remember not the words of your enemies but the silence of your friends. No, when this -- when something like this happens, you can expect typical politicians -- and that's what most of them are, and they're in the business to do this sort of thing and keep themselves away from, you know, areas where there's some heat -- it's not unexpected (INAUDIBLE)

VAN SUSTEREN: But even moreso, I mean, like, you have Senator Durbin, who -- who resisted your choice, when the Constitution says it's the governor's job to appoint for the vacancy in the U.S. Senate. I mean, it wasn't like there was a gray area. That's the way it was written. But Senator Durbin, U.S. senator, fought it.

BLAGOJEVICH: What you saw there with the Senate Democratic leadership, with Senator Durbin, Senator Reid and others, was something that actually predated what happened to me on December the 9th. I think they had some ideas on who they wanted for the Senate and...

VAN SUSTEREN: So political reasons?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, of course. I mean, there -- it's a political business. And not improper reasons, they just -- you had candidates that they were more interested in. And Roland Burris wasn't one of them. Had I not made the pick for Senate -- for the Senate, Illinois would have been deprived of a voice and a vote in the United States Senate. I would have hurt my state. That, in my judgment, would be the failure of doing my duty. That, in my judgment, would be impeachable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, but even beyond that, I mean, the Constitution provides that the governor is supposed to do that. I mean, it wasn't...

BLAGOJEVICH: It's a clear-cut thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, it's a clear-cut thing...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... And then you've got people like Senator Durbin, who is...

BLAGOJEVICH: Thwarting the Constitution and the law.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right. And so it must have been -- I mean, he was trying to poke a stick in your eye on that one or something because it was quite clear. And in the end, he caved.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, well...

VAN SUSTEREN: He must have sat down and read the Constitution.

BLAGOJEVICH: No, they had their own candidate, and Roland Burris wasn't the person they wanted. That's what that was. And I was the excuse.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Who did you consider, Oprah?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, I did. And there was a -- you know, a moment or some days where we seriously had discussions about her. With her, since it's out there, my thought was that it's -- it's thinking outside the box. And we did a lot of that in these discussions, try to figure out some other things. But she was significant in helping Obama become president. Why not have her be a senator to help him get his agenda passed? She has a bully pulpit that's unparalleled. There's no senator who can come close to matching her. In fact, she by herself is an equal to 100 senators.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know her?

BLAGOJEVICH: I've met her a couple times. She's fascinating and a great story. And so, OK, let's think about it. On the other hand, how likely is it she'd give up what she's doing for that? I mean, being a senator's a big deal, but it ain't Oprah.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, much more with Governor Blagojevich. The governor has something to say about the infamous Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The governor says he relates to him. Relates to him? Well, stick around. You want to hear this. His answer to that question well, it's intriguing.

Then guess who President Obama wants to talk to? No, not FOX News Channel, not ABC News, not even CBS News. He wants to talk to an Arab- owned network, and he did. A blunder, or shrewd? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells us.


VAN SUSTEREN: We continue now with Governor Rod Blagojevich. Now, how is this impeachment scandal affecting his family?


BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it's very hard. It's a tough time for us, obviously, and it's a time of transition. We tell our daughters, our older one, especially, who's 12, that we're going to begin a new chapter in our lives.

VAN SUSTEREN: I can't imagine the humiliation of handcuffs for a governor.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I've been criticized because I was asked what I thought about when all of that was happening, and I said that, you know, my first thought was my kids, and then I thought about my wife, who I'd just kissed goodbye, I'd left behind as this whole thing had developed in a shocking and unexpected way.

And then I tried to get some historical perspective for inspiration, and I thought about historical figures -- who I'm not comparing myself to, by any means. But I thought about Mandela and Dr. King and Gandhi. I've been criticized for this because it's been taken out of context. Again, not comparing myself but just trying to see how others who you admire through history may have been in circumstances a lot more degrading than what I had to face.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting. I think to myself, What would I think if I -- you know, if this happened to my spouse? And I guess I'd have two feelings. One is, you know, I'd feel terrible for the spouse, but the other is I'd be absolutely furious that you could be so stupid as to get yourself into this situation.

BLAGOJEVICH: Each. That's a sentiment I -- that I'm not unfamiliar with.


VAN SUSTEREN: I expect that. Let me ask you sort of a wild question, as long as I have here -- Illinois politics. Do you know Reverend Wright?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes. I've been to his church.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many times have you been to his church?

BLAGOJEVICH: I think once.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've heard what we've played on the air -- I mean, the media's played on the air of things he said, certainly things about, I mean, issues of race. What are your thoughts about Reverend Wright now?

BLAGOJEVICH: When I was at his church, I didn't hear any of that. And I'm almost now, since what's happened to me, you know, a little less quick to reach a conclusion because I don't know the context in which some of those things that he said were being said. So I just don't -- I want to judge him based on my own interaction with him, and he was a real gentleman with me.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you and I are sitting down two years from now, are we going to be sitting down in a hotel room in New York and the state capital in Illinois, or you know, are we going to be in some more grim place like Marion or someplace like that? I don't think they'll send you to Marion, but some federal camp. What do you think?

BLAGOJEVICH: The state capital, probably not because I think they're going to pass a law barring me from holding office in Illinois, if they're successful. But it'll be a happy place, and I'll be in a place where, you know, we'll be moving towards, my family and I, you know, building a better life.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I know that -- but you got to have plan B at this point because things are -- you know, you and I are very practical as lawyers.


VAN SUSTEREN: It's like, you know, I mean, the writing is on the wall in the senate because you're not presenting any defense.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I'm not...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're -- you're cooked as governor, right?

BLAGOJEVICH: Unless they change the rules. I've said the fix is in. There's nothing delusional about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right. So there's nothing -- you know pretty much where that one's headed. So what...

BLAGOJEVICH: And it's a principled stand I'm taking. I'm not participating in some phony-baloney impeachment that's going to undermine future governors and violate the Constitution.

VAN SUSTEREN: But how are you going to -- how are you going to support your family in the next couple weeks or months or anything? Because you must be thinking about that.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, I thought I might want to get my old job as a pizza driver back, but I don't even have a car. So you know, I'll figure that out. Life's a marathon, and political careers and the things that you do, you know, sometimes look real good, and sometimes there are some moments when you're in a valley. It's filled with peaks and valleys, and I believe there's some peaks still out there for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: On a 1 to 10 scale, if 10 is great and 1 is the worst, where is your life right now?


VAN SUSTEREN: Two? All right.

BLAGOJEVICH: It's pretty bad!


BLAGOJEVICH: It -- it...


BLAGOJEVICH: Two-and-a-half, three because I have two beautiful daughters, and I love them to death. And I love my wife. Five.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor...


VAN SUSTEREN: Four? All right.


VAN SUSTEREN: We'll get it someplace. Governor, thank you very much. And good luck, sir.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes. Appreciate it, Greta. Thank you.


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