'I Will Fight,' Illinois Governor Vows - Blagojevich Assails Federal Corruption Charges, Lawmakers Seeking Impeachment

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich spoke publicly Friday for the first time about his arrest on federal corruption charges, asserting his innocence and plans to defend himself against the charges in court.Video by AP
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 20, 2008

CHICAGO, Dec. 19 -- Not yielding an inch, besieged Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) vowed to keep his job, restore his reputation and defeat federal corruption charges during a brief and emotional public appearance 10 days after his arrest.

Blagojevich blasted as "false" the allegations that he schemed to sell President-elect Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and shake down executives who sought business with the state. He called lawmakers seeking his impeachment a "political lynch mob."

"I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath," Blagojevich told reporters in his first statement since the FBI led him from his home in handcuffs on Dec. 9. "I have done nothing wrong."

Blagojevich quoted Rudyard Kipling in a statement that lasted less than three minutes. He urged patience and asked his constituents to "sit back and take a deep breath -- and please reserve judgment."

The defiant performance by Blagojevich increases the chances of a lengthy power struggle with a state legislature that seems intent on removing him from office before winter is over -- and long before Blagojevich faces a federal jury.

How and when Obama's seat will be filled remains unresolved.

A 21-member House impeachment committee that began investigating Blagojevich's conduct this week aims to produce a recommendation by Jan. 14, when a new legislature is sworn in.

Blagojevich's attorney, Ed Genson, contends that lawmakers have no grounds for impeachment or removal. Likening the impeachment effort to "Alice in Wonderland," he has signaled that his client will do nothing to make the legislature's task easier.

The governor was silent about what should happen to Obama's Senate seat, which has been vacant since Nov. 16. Illinois law gives Blagojevich sole authority to appoint a successor, but Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has said the Senate will not seat anyone chosen by the governor.

Following Blagojevich's much-anticipated statement, which drew dozens of reporters and camera crews to the James R. Thompson Center on a snowy afternoon, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) renewed his call on the governor to resign.

"He is duty-bound to step aside under these perilous times and circumstances," said Quinn, who has not spoken with the increasingly isolated Blagojevich, a former three-term Chicago congressman, since August 2007.

Others in the chorus calling for Blagojevich's resignation include Obama, the 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus and prominent Illinois Republicans and Democrats.

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