Dec. 19, 2008— -- A defiant Gov. Rod Blagojevich told the people of Illinois today that he will not step down and intends to fight the corruption charges against him.
"I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," Blagojevich said at a brief press conference today in Chicago. It was the first time Blagojevich publicly addressed the corruption charges filed against him 10 days ago.
"I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath," said Blagojevich.
The governor did not address the vast array specific allegations against him saying that he would fight the charges in court. "I'm dying to answer these charges," he said.
"I'm not going to quit my job. I'm not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have done and that is talk about this case in 30 second sound bites. I am dying to show you how innocent I am. I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way."
Blagojevich thanked his supporters saying "it's kind of lonely right now."
"I know there are some powerful forces alligned against me," he said, "but I have on my side the most powerful ally there is, and it's the truth."
Blagojevich's attorney, Sam Adam Jr., told reporters that the governor would resign if "the people of Illinois suffer" as a result of him fighting these charges. He also said that many of the conversations referred to in the FBI affidavit were taken out of context.
The FBI affidavit unsealed last week included numerous transcripts of recorded conversations that prosecutors say point to a scheme to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, as well as other acts of corruption. One conversation revealed that Blagojevich wanted Obama "to put something together…something big" in exchange for going along with Obama's choice to fill his vacant U.S. Senate seat.
"I've got this thing and it's f***ing golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for f***in' nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there," Blagojevich said in a phone call secretly recorded by the FBI Nov. 5, the day after the election, according to the affidavit.
A Tough Legal Fight Ahead
Blagojevich's defiance today sets up a trial to remember, no-nonsense federal prosecutors against Chicago style politics.
"He's going to say, yeah, I said a lot of things, but that's how we do business in Chicago. A lot of push, lot of shove, lot of talk. And he's going to say nothing happened," said former Chicago federal prosecutor Peter Viara.
"Unfortunately for the governor, he was very precise and explicit on the tape," said Bennett. Bennett said that Blagojevich's attorneys will likely challenge the legality of the recordings in an attempt to try and get them thrown out as evidence. "That's the critical thing in the case. Without those recordings my guess is he [U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald] has a very weak case."
"It is conduct that would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in announcing the charges 10 days ago in Chicago. He said the governor's efforts to "sell" the Senate seat was the "most sinister and appalling" of a range of alleged corrupt acts detailed in the case.
Fitzgerald said, "there's no reference in the complaint to any conversations involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it, and that's all I can say." His comment did not close the door on the possibility that Obama or someone on his staff may have known of some aspect of the governor's demands.
Since then, Obama has denounced Blagojevich's activities and called for him to resign. And in a letter sent to Blagojevich last week, all 50 members of the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus also called for him to resign and to not make any appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Obama.
Blagojevich's chief of staff John Harris resigned last week. Harris was arrested and arraigned along with Blagojevich. Both were released on bond.
Harris' attorney Jim Sotos told the Associated Press that his client resigned "because it was the right thing to do, and that's all I'm going to say."
Blagojevich Previously Linked to Rezko
One of Blagojevich's deputy governors, Bob Greenlee, stepped down from his post one day after federal agents arrested the governor. Greenlee, who appears to be "Deputy Governor A" in the complaint filed by federal prosecutors against Blagojevich, resigned without explanation.
The document describes numerous secretly recorded conversations between "Deputy Governor A" and the governor in which they strategize about how the governor can financially benefit from his power to replace Obama in the Senate, and other topics.
Blagojevich was previously linked to disgraced former political fundraiser Tony Rezko, who was convicted in June of charges stemming from him using his influence with the governor's office in a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme. Blagojevich's relationship with Rezko, who is in jail awaiting sentencing Jan. 6, was a consistent theme of Rezko's trial.