Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Illinois moves against governor

Barack Obama on "an appalling set of circumstances"

Illinois lawmakers have taken the first step towards impeaching state governor Rod Blagojevich by voting to begin an inquiry into grounds for impeachment.

If the inquiry determines that impeachment is warranted, the house will vote on whether to impeach, and a trial in the state senate will follow.

Mr Blagojevich was arrested last week for allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's senate seat.

He denies the charges but is under pressure to stand down.

Mr Obama has said that he is "appalled and disappointed" by Mr Blagojevich's alleged actions.

Federal agents say Mr Blagojevich
Tried to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions;
Tried to use state funds for the private purpose of inducing the Tribune Company to fire Chicago Tribune editorial board members critical of him;
Tried to obtain personal financial benefits for himself in return for his appointment of a US senator

The president-elect told a Chicago news conference that prosecutors had asked him to delay releasing the results of his staff's internal review of any contacts Mr Blagojevich may have had with the presidential transition team.

"The US Attorney's Office asked us to hold off releasing those for a week, so I would ask for your patience because I do not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation," Mr Obama said.

"But there is nothing in the review that was presented to me that in anyway contradicted my earlier statements that this appalling set of circumstances that we've seen arise had nothing to do with my office."

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the review had "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 US senator".

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit last Friday asking the Illinois Supreme Court to declare Governor Rod Blagojevich "unfit to serve".

"In light of his arrest in the filing of the criminal complaint, Governor Blagojevich can no longer fulfil his official duties with any legitimacy," she said.


Federal investigators, who had been working on a case against Mr Blagojevich for several years, charged him last Tuesday with a number of offences, including soliciting a bribe.

The charges relate to a variety of corruption schemes in which the governor was allegedly involved, including so-called "pay to play" deals - the doling out of jobs, contracts and appointments in return for campaign contributions.

The US attorney's office released a 76-page FBI affidavit detailing the charges against Mr Blagojevich, which included transcripts of his telephone conversations intercepted by court-authorised wiretaps over several weeks.

In the conversations, the Democratic governor allegedly discussed offering Mr Obama's senate seat in return for a well-paid position at a non-profit organisation or a group affiliated with trades unions, according to the affidavit.

As governor, Mr Blagojevich has the sole authority to pick Mr Obama's temporary successor as senator until an election is held.

In the transcripts, on 3 November Mr Blagojevich said the seat was a "[expletive] valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing".

The day after the presidential election, according to the affidavit, Mr Blagojevich was recorded as saying: "I've got this thing and it's [expletive] golden, and uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing."

Mr Blagojevich caused outrage by returning to work on Wednesday, a day after he was released on bail having appeared before a federal judge.

His lawyer told reporters that Mr Blagojevich believed he had done nothing wrong and had no plans to resign.

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25 Jul 08 |  Americas

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