TOPICS > Politics

Blagojevich Proclaims Innocence, Plans to Fight Corruption Charges

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

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.