President-elect Barack Obama believes that Gov. Rod Blagojevich should resign. “The President-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” said incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Obama is joining Sen. Dick Durbin and others in calling for a special election.
Jamison Foser dismantles an AP smear piece that claims the Blagojevich “scandal is threatening to dog him.”
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is currently under investigation for allegedly trying to sell the open Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama. Today, Obama said that he had “no contact” with Blagojevich and was not aware of what was transpiring:
OBAMA: I had no contact with the governor or his office so I was not aware of what was happening. As I said it is a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment.
Jake Tapper notes that, two weeks ago, David Axelrod told a local Chicago station that Obama had spoken with the governor. An Obama transition team aide says that Axelrod misspoke.
Change To Win released this statement:
No one connected with Change to Win ever considered, discussed or promised any position at Change to Win to Governor Blagojevich, his staff or his advisers. In the affidavit released by the United States Attorney, a position at Change to Win is discussed only in conversations between the governor and his advisers. The first time Change to Win learned of any of the matters raised in the criminal complaint was with today’s public release of the affidavit.
We have no reason to believe that SEIU or any SEIU official was involved in any wrongdoing. In keeping with the U.S. Attorney’s request, we are not sharing information with the media at this time.
,When asked if Blagojevich had plans to resign, his attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters today, “Not that I know of, no.” “He didn’t do anything wrong,” Sorosky said. A lot of this is just politics.”
,David Axelrod released this statement tonight: “I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.”
Marcy Wheeler catches local Chicago press reporting that Rahm Emanuel may have tipped off federal investigators that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) was engaging in corrupt acts. Jack Conaty, a Chicago reporter for the local Fox affiliate, said on-air that Rahm Emanuel might have been responsible for causing federal investigators to act quickly to apprehend Blagojevich this morning:
CONATY: We did receive a tip this morning that perhaps all of this came together so quickly because the Governor may have reached out to Rahm Emanuel, the president-elect’s chief of staff, in attempting to leverage filling the Senate seat. And it may have been Rahm Emanuel who tipped the scale and made this move as quickly as it did.
Greg Sargent reports that a source close to Rahm says the story is “not true,” adding that it’s the “result of some overzealous reporting.”
In a press conference explaining the arrest and the corruption charges filed against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — who successfully prosecuted Scooter Libby — declared the current case as a “new low.” Fitzgerald described the charges as a “political corruption crime spree.”
Noting that Blagojevich has been under investigation for years for pay-to-play corruption charges, Fitzgerald expressed his amazement that the activity would continue. “You might have thought in that environment, pay-to-play would have slowed down. The opposite happened. It sped up,” he said.
The “most cynical behavior” by Blagojevich pertained to his attempt to sell the open Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, Fitzgerald said:
The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave. The governor’s own words describing the Senate seat: “It’s a [bleeping] valuable thing. You just don’t give it away for nothing.” Another quote: “I’ve got this thing and it’s [bleeping] golden. I’m just not giving it up for [bleeping] nothing. I’m not going to do it. I can always use it — I can parachute me there.”
Fitzgerald emphasized: “I should make clear that the complaint makes no allegations about the President-elect whatsoever, his conduct.” Watch a portion of the press conference:
In his private conversations, Blagojevich indignantly referred to Barack Obama as a “motherf*cker” and repeatedly cussed him out because Obama refused to engage in the pay-to-play scheme. Blagojevich complained about giving this “motherf*cker [Obama] his senator. F*ck him. For nothing? F*ck him.”
Federal authorities took Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and his chief of staff John Harris into custody this morning on federal corruption charges. Before the arrest, the Chicago Tribune had reported that a “three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama.” According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office:
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:
– a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
– placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
– promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
– a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
Fitzgerald, who successfully prosecuted Scooter Libby, said in a statement that “the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.” “I want to make money,” the affidavit quotes Blagojevich as saying in one conversation. The full 76-page two-count criminal complaint can be found here. FireDogLake has more.
The federal criminal complaint reports that Blagojevich corruptly solicited and demanded “the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical” of him.
,In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that President-elect Obama wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.” The complaint does not mention her name, but the description makes clear that Blagojevich is referring to Valerie Jarrett.
,Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who is reportedly under consideration for the open Senate seat, said she was “absolutely shocked” to hear the news. She said the prosecutor should “have a really good reason” for going into Blagojevich’s house and taking him into custody in front of his family. Watch it:
,According to the Illinois constitution, the Lt. Governor is first in line to take over as Governor, “[i]f the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability.” Should Blagojevich be subject to any of these conditions in the near future, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would assume power and be responsible for appointing Obama’s successor.
,Blagojevich told reporters yesterday, “I don’t believe there’s any cloud that hangs over me. I think there’s nothing but sunshine hanging over me.”
,Illinois Rep. Tim Hare (D) says the allegations are serious enough that Blagojevich should resign if they are true:
Today is a sad day for the state of Illinois. It is important that we let the justice system run its course and remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But if these allegations are even remotely true, they would represent a shameful breach of the public trust and be cause for the Governor’s immediate resignation.
,Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has called for a special election: “The General Assembly should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy of Barack Obama. No appointment by this Governor could produce a credible replacement,” he said.
,Lt. Gov. Quinn says Blagojevich should step down.