Obama Renews Call for Blagojevich to Step Down
Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges related to his alleged attempts to profit from the naming of a replacement for the president-elect’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, among other schemes.
During a press conference in Chicago to announce former Sen. Tom Daschle as his choice to head the health and human services agency, Mr. Obama said he didn’t discuss his vacant Senate seat with Blagojevich and said he’s confident that no one on his staff did either.
“I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I’m confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat,” the president-elect told reporters. “I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact,” he added.
“I’ve asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor’s office about this vacancy so that we can share them with you over the next few days,” Mr. Obama added.
Saying the “public trust has been violated,” the president-elect also renewed a call, initially issued through his spokesman on Wednesday, for Blagojevich to step down.
“I hope that the governor himself comes to the conclusion that he can no longer effectively serve and that he does resign,” Mr. Obama said.
Illinois’ attorney general on Thursday threatened to go to the state Supreme Court to have Blagojevich declared unfit to hold office if he doesn’t resign soon or get impeached by the Legislature.
“I have the opportunity to go to our Illinois Supreme Court and ask them to declare our governor is unable to serve and put in our lieutenant governor as acting governor,” Madigan, a longtime Blagojevich foe, told CNN.
On Monday, state legislative leaders plan to convene a special session to strip Blagojevich of his authority to pick a new U.S. senator and possibly moving forward with a proposal for a special election to fill the seat. Lawmakers also prepared to discuss the possibility of impeachment, according to the Associated Press.
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn predicted that if Blagojevich doesn’t resign, it won’t be long before he’s either impeached or taken to the state’s highest court by Madigan.
“I really think that the governor needs to resign and step aside right now and I think that will happen,” Quinn told NBC’s “Today” program Thursday. “If the governor doesn’t act he will be impeached.”
Blagojevich, who was released on his own recognizance after his arrest, returned to work Thursday in his Chicago office without commenting. “He’s working,” said spokeswoman Kelley Quinn.
The governor’s decision to continue to show up for work after his high-profile arrest, as well as the release of a lengthy affidavit documenting wiretapped conversations where he allegedly sought to use his position for personal gain, angered many in the state’s political establishment.
“He appears to listen to no one, and his conduct becomes more outrageous as time goes on,” Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, said, according to the AP.