Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said today that he had done nothing wrong and vowed to fight the federal corruption charges against him "until my last breath."
"I have done nothing wrong," Blagojevich said in his first substantial public comments since his arrest last week. "I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until my last breath."
In the brief statement, Blagojevich said he was "dying" to answer all of the allegations against him, but would comment further in court.
Acknowledging that it was "kind of lonely right now," the governor asked the people of Illinois to reserve judgment and have patience. He said he was "absolutely certain that I will be vindicated," adding, "I have on my side the most powerful ally there is, the truth."
Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant senate seat to the highest bidder, has not given any indication he will resign from office, instead promising to fight the charges and impeachment efforts against him.
"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.
The governor's attorney, Ed Genson, has traveled the talk-show circuit trying to convince the public that prosecutors don't have enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.
"The case that I have seen so far is significantly exaggerated," he said. "It's not what people think it is."
Genson's essential argument is that while Blagojevich may be foul-mouthed and crass, talk is just talk and there is no evidence that any money or favors were actually exchanged.
The trick, legal experts say, will be to give a jury plausible explanations of why Blagojevich, in phone conversations caught on FBI wiretaps, seemed to allude to the exchange of the Senate seat for campaign cash or a plum job. Genson is also, reportedly, planning to challenge the court-ordered wiretaps' legality.
Business as Usual in Washington?
Some Washington insiders say promising a plum political assignment in exchange for money or other favors isn't unusual.
"The town is full of people who have served as ambassadors who really the only reason they got the job is over the years they contributed thousands and thousands of dollars to one political party or the other," veteran Washington attorney Robert Bennett said.
Bennett, who wrote a book about political insiders called "In the Ring," said Blagojevich's main problem is that he is just too blunt.
"So much of life is not what you do but how you do it and the governor certainly did it all wrong," Bennett said.
The governor is in legal trouble not because the government wiretaps caught him rewarding contributors for their long-time support, observers say, but because he proposed a very specific quid pro quo.
"If there's no merit-based decision-making with respect to my public act but focuses exclusively on who pays and who doesn't, for me that is an unambiguously corrupt act," said Zachary Carter, a former United States attorney.