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“The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. (Pat) 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,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said, according to the Associated Press.
Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested Tuesday. The Illinois governor, who has the power to appoint a replacement for Mr. Obama’s vacant Senate seat, is accused of scheming to profit by selling the post for financial gain or a lucrative job for himself, among other allegations.
Blagojevich was released on his own recognizance and ordered to surrender his passport after his arrest. The governor left his Chicago home early Wednesday but said nothing to reporters.
The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times newspapers ran nearly full-page editorials demanding the immediate resignation of Blagojevich, who turned 52 Wednesday.
“The governor must resign immediately,” The Chicago Tribune wrote in its editorial. “If he doesn’t, the Illinois House should begin proceedings to impeach him, and to ask the Senate to try him.”
Included in the allegations against Blagojevich are charges that he and Harris were trying to strong-arm the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, as part of an effort to influence its flagship paper’s editorial stance, which was highly critical of the governor.
Illinois lawmakers have said they are preparing to call the Legislature into session as early as next week to set a special election to choose Obama’s successor.
Asked whether the president-elect backs such a move, Gibbs said Mr. Obama believes the Legislature should consider a special election and “put in place a process to select a new senator that will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois.”
Mr. Obama has said that he had no knowledge of Blagojevich’s actions around his Senate seat — a point he repeated in an interview published in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time,” he said.
In its 76-page affidavit, the FBI outlined an extensive list of charges, including excerpts of phone conversations where Blagojevich is heard discussing his possible gain various possible unnamed Senate appointments.
Blagojevich is heard bitterly complaining that the Obama team was offering only “appreciation” for consideration of their preferred Senate candidate, which is believed to be longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, according to media reports.
“No appointment by this governor, under these circumstances, could produce a credible replacement,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D- Ill., said Tuesday after the governor’s arrest.
The governor’s attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said Tuesday he didn’t know of any immediate plans for him to resign. Blagojevich believes he didn’t do anything wrong and asked Illinois residents to have faith in him, Sorosky said, according to the AP.
“I suppose we will have to go to trial,” he said.
“It’s outrageous,” Beth Pinter, who lives a block away from the embattled governor, told Reuters. “He should resign, but he won’t because he’s a sociopath … I don’t want him in my neighborhood because he’s a crook.”
Blagojevich becomes the latest in a long line of Illinois governors to be caught up in scandal. He was elected in 2002 on a promise to clean up the state’s politics after the administration of Gov. George Ryan, who is serving six years in prison for graft. Blagojevich was re-elected to another four-year term in 2006.
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