Illinois Lawmakers Weigh Blagojevich Impeachment

The Illinois Legislature began preparations for impeaching Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday, nearly a week after the state's chief executive was arrested on federal public corruption charges.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who like Blagojevich is a Democrat, said he appointed a 21-person committee to prepare a report detailing grounds for the governor's impeachment. The panel will begin meeting immediately, Madigan said.

Meanwhile, President-elect Obama's transition team said an internal review showed there were no inappropriate discussions between Obama's staff and Blagojevich or the governor's staff.

Federal prosecutors had alleged the governor was scheming to trade the Senate appointment for money, contributions or a lucrative job. They said the president-elect was not implicated in any wrongdoing; Obama reiterated that last week, even as he ordered the internal review of contacts with the governor's office.

"That review affirmed the public statements of the President-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the President-elect's staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as U.S. Senator," the transition team said in a statement.

Obama transition spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said prosecutors asked the Obama team not to release the review until the week of Dec. 22, so the federal investigation would not be hampered.

Despite intense publicity, Blagojevich has tried to carry on as usual since the charges were announced. He was expected to sign a bill Monday giving tax credits to the film industry.

Blagojevich has maintained he is not guilty of wrongdoing.

Madigan said the legislative committee would begin its work on the possible impeachment on Tuesday and continue through year end. They will not meet Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Blagojevich or his representative will have the opportunity to appear before the committee, Madigan said. After the panel makes a recommendation, the Illinois House will decide whether to file impeachment charges. The state Senate will then rule on the charges.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn called on Blagojevich to resign. If that doesn't happen, Quinn said the impeachment process could be completed by Jan. 14, when the new General Assembly begins.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the House speaker's daughter, has asked the state Supreme Court to remove Blagojevich from office, saying the charges have, in essence, left the governor "disabled" and unable to fulfill his duties.

Lisa Madigan is considered a leading contender for the governor's job in 2010.

From NPR and wire reports

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