FBI: Illinois Governor Sought To "Sell" Obama's Senate Seat
Wanted President-elect to "put something together . . . something big."
December 9, 2008— -- Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wanted President-elect Barack Obama "to put something together…something big" in exchange for going along with Obama's choice to fill his vacant U.S. Senate seat, according to a FBI affidavit unsealed following the governor's stunning arrest.
"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 on Nov. 5, the day after the election, according to the affidavit.
"It is conduct that would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in announcing the charges today 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 today's 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.
Obama addressed the scandal over his Senate seat Tuesday afternoon, saying, "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."
But Obama's senior advisor David Axelrod told a Chicago affiliate of Fox News that Obama had in fact spoken to Blagojevich about his empty Senate seat.
"I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them," Axelrod said in the Nov. 23 interview.
The controversy continued Tuesday evening, when Axelrod issued a statement retracting his statement.
"I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject," said Axelrod.
The president-elect, who was speaking to reporters following a meeting with Al Gore about green energy and climate change, also said, "Obviously, like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by news that came out of the U.S. Attorney's office today, but as this is an ongoing investigation into the governor, I don't think it'd be appropriate for me to comment at this time."
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. said he met with Blagojevich yesterday "for the first time in years" and voiced his desire to fill Obama's empty Senate seat. He said he was "shocked" by Blagojevich's arrest, adding "If these allegations are proved true, I am outraged by the appalling, pay-to-play schemes hatched at the highest levels of our state government."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called on the Illinois State Senate to set a special election to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat, claiming that "No appointment by this governor under these circumstances could produce a credible replacement."
As the Governor of Illinois, Blagojevich retains power to fill Obama's seat, however sources say that isn't likely.
ABC News' George Stephanopoulous reports that Illinois state legislators will meet next week to pass a bill for a special election in February. Beyond a special election, the Illinois Secretary of State has the power to certify Blagojevich's pick, and the U.S. Senate can choose not to seat whoever he might appoint.
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