CBS’s Rodriguez: Blagojevich ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez discussed the potential impeachment of disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich with Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and asked: "You've been calling for impeachment proceedings since the day after this scandal broke. Why? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Schakowsky explained: "No, this isn't about the legal process. This is about the governor being unable to govern right now. This is really a political question. Right now, our state is without the leadership that we need and so, of course, he'll be innocent until proven guilty in the courts."

This is not the first time Rodriguez gave the benefit of the doubt to a Democratic official embroiled in scandal. In March, Rodriguez defended the disgraced Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, who was accused and later convicted of perjury, regarding sexually explicit text messages. At the time, Rodriguez asked the prosecutor in the case: "But texting and actually doing are two different things. Is innuendo evidence?"

On Monday, Rodriguez went on to ask Schakowsky about her meetings with the governor: "I know that you were among President-elect Obama's choices to replace him and you spoke with the governor about that. Can you tell me about that conversation? Was there anything inappropriate said or implied?" Schakowsky replied: "Not even close." Rodriguez saw that as reasonable doubt: "So then you believe that he is capable of what he's accused of doing? But just didn’t take that approach with you?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:05AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: The pressure is mounting on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to resign. CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds has -- is in Chicago with more on that. Good morning, sir.

DEAN REYNOLDS: Good morning, Harry. Well, the impeachment proceedings are set to get underway today in Springfield, the supreme court is considering a petition to remove Blagojevich from office, but for now, the governor is still very much the governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [REPORTER]: The longer -- the longer you say nothing, the longer people wonder if you have something to hide, Governor.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH: There will be an appropriate time to talk about this, but let me just wish everybody happy holidays and things will be -- work out just fine.

REYNOLDS: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich gave no indication that he would resign as he left a meeting with his lawyer last night, but two of the state's top politicians, both likely to run for governor in 2010, renewed their calls for Blagojevich to resign.

PAT QUINN [ILLINOIS DEMOCRATIC LT. GOVERNOR]: He's got to do something because our state is in crisis.

LISA MADIGAN [ILLINOIS DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEY GENERAL]: We're really in a situation here in the state of Illinois, where we don't have a governor who can legitimately governor and so it has been imperative that we find a way to move forward.

REYNOLDS: One way would be to remove Blagojevich from office, something Madigan has already asked the Illinois Supreme Court to consider. Another could be possible impeachment proceedings by the state legislature, which, according to one survey, has the support of 80% of lawmakers. But the questions of how to fill President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat remains. Democrats, who first called for a special election, now appear to be wavering. They want the Governor Blagojevich to quit so that the Democratic lieutenant governor could appoint someone to Mr. Obama's seat. Republicans say a special election is the best option.

TOM CROSS [ILLINOIS REPUBLICAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE]: We've just been shocked as a state over the last four or five days and in order to restore whatever integrity we have left in this state, we have to make it as transparent as possible.

REYNOLDS: As for the governor himself, a couple of meetings over the weekend with defense attorneys would indicate that he, at least on the surface, intends to fight. Harry.

SMITH: Alright, thanks very much, Dean Reynolds in Chicago. Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Harry. Joining us now this morning, also from Chicago, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who has known Governor Rod Blagojevich for years. Good morning to you, Congresswoman.

JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: You've been calling for impeachment proceedings since the day after this scandal broke. Why? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

SCHAKOWSKY: No, this isn't about the legal process. This is about the governor being unable to govern right now. This is really a political question. Right now, our state is without the leadership that we need and so, of course, he'll be innocent until proven guilty in the courts. But we already know that we're literally without a governor right now that can -- can lead.

RODRIGUEZ: Not if you ask him. He's going back to work today. His spokesperson says he will not resign. We saw him wishing everybody happy holidays, almost as if nothing ever happened. Do you believe that he thinks he did nothing wrong here?

SCHAKOWSKY: I -- you know, it's hard to understand anymore what the governor's really thinking. The charges that were leveled against him are so fantastical, where he was imagining himself being appointed secretary of Health and Human Services or an ambassadorship. And so, you know, it seems like the grip on reality, political reality anyway, is pretty slim.

RODRIGUEZ: I know that you were among President-elect Obama's choices to replace him and you spoke with the governor about that. Can you tell me about that conversation? Was there anything inappropriate said or implied?

SCHAKOWSKY: Not even close. Which makes me think maybe I really wasn't in consideration, because I was talking to the governor on November 18th to ascertain -- you know, we've known each other a long time, I said, 'Rod, am I really in contention? Am I on a list of yours?' And he assured me that I was, but looking back, I guess I wasn't.

RODRIGUEZ: So then you believe that he is capable of what he's accused of doing? But just didn't take that approach with you?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well -- no, no, he didn't take that approach with me and I -- you know, we'll see if he's proven guilty, but the words that he spoke, the kind of brazenness about basically really auctioning off, you know, that this was a prize that he had and he wasn't going to give it away for nothing, I think shocked a lot of people. It crossed a line. You know, experienced politicians understand that there are parameters and -- within which you horse trade. You know, if I'm going to run for governor and appoint you, then I would expect your support, or how about a commitment that you'll support my health care plan, those kinds of things. But to really be bartering for money or for jobs, all personal gain, was really offensive, I think, too. Almost -- well to everyone in Illinois.

RODRIGUEZ: It goes too far. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, thank you.

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC