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Gov. Blagojevich Denies Wrongdoing

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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alex Cohen
Alex Cohen is the reporter for NPR's fastest-growing daily news program, Day to Day where she has covered everything from homicides in New Orleans to the controversies swirling around the frosty dessert known as Pinkberry.
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.