TOPICS > Politics

Blagojevich Proclaims Innocence, Plans to Fight Corruption Charges

BY Admin  December 19, 2008 at 4:30 PM EST

Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses reporters; AP photo

“I will fight. I will fight. I
will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong,”
Blagojevich said, speaking for about three minutes.

The Democrat is accused, among other
things, of plotting to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant U.S.
Senate seat.

“I’m not going to quit a job the
people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch
mob,” Blagojevich said, according to the Associated Press.

One of the governor’s attorneys said
Blagojevich will take his constituents into account as the case moves forward.

“He told me if it doesn’t work,
if it is too hard if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside,”
attorney Sam Adam Jr. told reporters after the governor finished speaking.

Blagojevich said he wanted to tell his
side of the story even though his lead defense attorney, Ed Genson, didn’t like
the idea. On Friday, Blagojevich asked state residents to “sit back and
take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment.”

“Afford me the same rights that
you and your children have — the presumption of innocence, the right to defend
yourself,” said the governor, who said he wants to “answer every
allegation” in court.

Genson, who did not attend Blagojevich’s
news conference, has said he plans to challenge the court-ordered wiretaps at
the heart of the allegations against Blagojevich. Genson called the wiretaps
inappropriate, if not illegal, according to the AP.

Genson said he expects a federal grand
jury to indict his client, which likely would unseal many of the documents
supporting the charges.

The
governor’s feisty
defense left in limbo the fate of the Senate seat that Mr. Obama, a Democrat
like the governor, resigned after he was elected president. Democrats who
control the state Legislature have refused to call a special election, instead
starting an impeachment proceeding that could take weeks, if not months, and
might eventually result in Blagojevich’s removal from office.

Blagojevich had been under pressure
from political figures, including the president-elect, that he resign ever
since his arrest last week on charges of scheming trade political favors for
personal gain. He has not been indicted.

When the new U.S. Congress convenes in
January, it will have Democrats in the majority with at least 57 of the 100
seats. The Illinois seat will likely now be vacant and the fate of a Minnesota
seat now held by a Republican is still undecided pending a recount.

Blagojevich has steadfastly ignored
pressure to resign, instead showing up to at his Chicago office and signing
bills.

State GOP chairman Andy McKenna said
Friday that anything short of resignation by Blagojevich was unacceptable.
Blagojevich should resign and “spare voters any more heartache,”
McKenna said, according to the AP.

State lawmakers have appointed a
committee to investigate Blagojevich and issue a recommendation on whether he
should be impeached. The 21-member, bipartisan Illinois House panel began
meeting Tuesday. If it recommends that Blagojevich should be impeached and the
full House agrees, the state Senate would then decide whether the governor is
guilty.

Panel members have pledged to do
nothing to hinder the investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, but
have asked for details of his case.

In a letter released Friday, the
committee sought copies of the recorded conversations, the names of people
listed only by code names in the criminal complaint and the names of anyone
granted immunity by prosecutors.

The letter also lists dozens of people
the committee would like to question — but only if “our inquiry does not
interfere with your criminal investigation into the governor’s office.”

The impeachment process appears
certain to grind on, possibly into next year. Without it, the committee
probably will emphasize some lower-profile allegations of misconduct against
Blagojevich, such as defying the Legislature, failing to honor reporters’
Freedom of Information requests and trading state jobs and contracts for
campaign contributions.