Gov. Blagojevich Denies Wrongdoing

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday defiantly refused to heed a chorus of calls for his resignation, asserting that he will be cleared of charges that he conspired to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From NPR News, this is Day to Day. For the first time since he was arrested 10 days ago on federal corruption charges, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich spoke publicly today about his situation. The governor says he won't resign despite allegations that he tried to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Let's take a listen to a bit of what Blagojevich had to say.

(Soundbite of press conference, December 19, 2008)

Governor ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.

COHEN: Joining us now from Chicago where the governor spoke is NPR's David Schaper. And David, as we just heard, the governor is denying allegations of any criminal wrongdoing. What was his mood during this conference today?

DAVID SCHAPER: Well, if you can hear - it might not be that apparent to those whoever covered the governor, heard the governor talk before - but you can hear in his voice, he's a little short of breath; his pitch is a little higher. He seemed very tense to me. He did relax a little bit as his statement went on and on, but he came out, in a way, very keyed up and came out came out swinging is, I guess, the - probably the most appropriate way to put it.

COHEN: Did he address any of these specific allegations against him?

SCHAPER: He didn't talk about any specific allegation against him at all, but just told the reporters that were on hand and the general public and the people of Illinois that he had absolutely done nothing wrong. He said that a number of times and that he basically denies, I would suspect, all of those federal corruption charges against him, which are quite extensive. And you know, if you go back to the criminal complaint that the federal - U.S. attorney here in Chicago filed against him, was very, very explicit sort of language that he used in trying to suggest to those who he was allegedly talking to that he was willing to accept pay or jobs or all kinds of different things for the duties of his office.

COHEN: The Illinois Supreme Court weighed in on the situation the week; what did they do?

SCHAPER: Well, the Illinois Supreme Court was asked by the state's attorney general, Lisa Madigan, to step in and declare the governor unfit for office. Her argument was - now, this is something that's usually done in a physical incapacitation - her argument was that the charges really touched on so much of what he did, not just trying to allegedly sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated Barack Obama for bribes, but to sell, you know, signing a bill into law, state help for a children's hospital in the city, all kinds of different things that he is suppose to do, the duties of the governor, and that he was allegedly just selling anything that he did for some sort of campaign contribution or some sort of favor.

That was the allegation laid out by the federal government. So, the attorney general of the state felt like this - he could not continue in any capacity as governor because they called into question virtually everything he did. But the Supreme Court did not want to take up that issue. It would not declare him incapacitated, and it would not step in and remove him from office in that manner.

COHEN: Briefly, David, there has also been talked of impeaching Governor Blagojevich. Where does that stand?

SCHAPER: Well, the Illinois legislature met in special session on Monday, and they formed a special committee - the Illinois House has a special committee - investigating whether or not the legislature should impeach the governor. That committee met for a couple of days, held hearings this week trying to lay out a case for impeachment, and those hearings will resume next Monday.

COHEN: NPR's David Schaper joining us from Chicago. Thank you, David.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Alex.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Day to Day returns in a moment.

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Blagojevich Denies Guilt, Vows To Fight Charges

If Only 'If' Weren't Overplayed

With his back against the wall, the Illinois governor turns to ... Rudyard Kipling? Turns out the English poet is a favorite of high-profile people in times of crisis, Linton Weeks reports.

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday defiantly refused to heed a chorus of calls for his resignation, asserting that he will be cleared of charges that he conspired to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.

"I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," Blagojevich said in a Chicago conference room packed with reporters. "I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath."

Refusing to take questions and insisting he had done nothing wrong, Blagojevich positioned himself as a lonely hero facing "false accusations and a political lynch mob."

"I'm dying to show you how innocent I am," Blagojevich said. "I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way" and "in an appropriate forum — in a court of law." He quoted the first stanza of Rudyard Kipling's well-worn poem If, in which the writer talks about keeping one's head while those about you are losing theirs.

He urged the citizens of Illinois to "sit back and take a deep breath" and to "reserve judgment."

It was Blagojevich's first formal statement since federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald last week accused him of engaging in a crime spree that would "make Lincoln roll over in his grave." And it came just minutes after Obama wrapped up a press conference about 1 1/2 miles away, where he announced his three latest Cabinet appointments.

Obama's Cabinet rollout has continued to be overshadowed by developments related to Blagojevich's arrest on Dec. 9. The case against the 52-year-old governor, re-elected to his second term in 2006, revolves around telephone recordings of him allegedly talking with friends and associates about money and jobs he may be able to parlay out of his power to appoint a senator to replace Obama.

On Thursday, a smiling Blagojevich, videotaped jogging through the icy streets of Chicago, told the trailing press corps that he's "dying" to tell his side of the story. He didn't reveal much more on Friday, except that even with federal charges hanging over his head, his bravado, public confidence, and resolve to remain in office are undiminished.

After the governor exited, one of his criminal defense lawyers told reporters that it was too early for Blagojevich to assume he was too crippled to serve. Those questions, said Sam Adams Jr., would likely be considered closer to Easter. A day earlier, Ed Genson, another one of the governor's lawyers, indicated the vigorous defense they plan. In an appearance before a special Illinois House impeachment panel, Genson called it an "Alice in Wonderland" process.

"Everybody's in a rush to judgment," Genson said later. "This is a real witch hunt."

As the legislature continued its move to impeach Blagojevich, federal officials said they will attempt to freeze money in the governor's campaign account in an attempt to prevent him from using the funds for his criminal defense.

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