Blagojevich Arrested! (Updated)

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been arrested by FBI agents:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.

Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.

Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning.

The Trib is “live-blogging” the developments as they happen. This is a breaking story.

The only surprise in this is that it took so long. In my lifetime three Illinois governors have been convicted of corruption after serving their terms as governor and done prison time. I’ve been predicting for more than a year that Gov. Blagojevich would make it four. The most likely defense is that he’s too stupid to be bad.

On the Trib’s 8:57 update

He’s even dumber than I thought. He knew that the Feds were watching him and he still tried to buy a job with the Obama Administration?!

“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”

Not a moment too soon. A senator appointed by Rod Blagojevich and one appointed by Pat Quinn, the Lieutenant Governor who undoubtedly will succeed Blagojevich would be two different breeds of cat. I’ve met Pat Quinn and he struck me as a very decent guy.


The complaint makes significantly spicier reading that the indictment. Here’s an example:

The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him the head of a private foundation.

Later on November 5, Blagojevich said to Advisor A, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there,” the affidavit states.

If a tenth of what’s in the indictment is true, Blagojevich might serve the rest of his life in the clink.

Update 2

Considering the number and severity of the charges against him, I strongly suspect we’re about to see where the bodies are buried. Tony Rezko was one thing. This is something else again.

Perhaps we should be starting a pool on how many highly-placed Illinois politicos fall.

Update 3

More from the complaint:

Also on November 12, in a conversation with Harris, the complaint affidavit states that Blagojevich said his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that. Legal. Personal. Political.” Harris said: “legal is the hardest one to satisfy.” Blagojevich said that his legal problems could be solved by naming himself to the Senate seat.

This is really evil stuff.

Update 4 (10:10am)

Former Alderman Ed Eisendrath has called for Blagojevich’s resignation:

Edwin Eisendrath, who was a Chicago alderman and Blagojevich’s opponent in the 2006 primary, issued the following statement this morning:

“This is a day many of us anticipated but wished would never happen. For the second time in a row a Governor from Illinois has been arrested and charged with serious crimes. In this case, Governor Blagojevich is charged with selling an appointment to the United States Senate, effectively undermining our democracy.

“Rod Blagojevich must resign immediately in order to preserve the integrity of the Senate selection process. If he refuses, the Illinois legislature must step in to remove him”

In case you’re wondering the Illinois Constitution has provisions for removing the governor:


The House of Representatives has the sole power to conduct legislative investigations to determine the existence of cause for impeachment and, by the vote of a majority of the members elected, to impeach Executive and Judicial officers. Impeachments shall be tried by the Senate. When sitting for that purpose, Senators shall be upon oath, or affirmation, to do justice according to law. If the Governor is tried, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senators elected. Judgment shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office of this State. An impeached officer, whether convicted or acquitted, shall be liable to prosecution, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.

As I mentioned above the governor would be succeeded by the Lieutenant Governor, in this case Pat Quinn.

Update (11:34am)

I concur with Marc Ambinder: Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is probably Senate candidate 5. A lot more shoes are going to drop in this nightmare.

24 comments… add one
  • Sort of the reverse of the Nixon Watergate defense which was, “He’s too smart to do something like this.”

    I remember when Blagojevich first arrived and we were thinking he might be POTUS some day. You know, what with him being a clean new broom in the corrupt Illinois state house.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Just speed-reading the US Attorney’s statement, it appears that the Governor has been caught regarding recent matters. I suspect the Feds were investigating Rezko/Levine related matters, got permission for a wire-tap and found the Governor talking about a whole bunch of new corruption.

  • The way I read the tea leaves, PD, is that they wanted to act before he appointed a senator.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Interestingly though, the Senate position appears to be in limbo. It looks like “Senate Candidate “5 was willing to pay cash for the position, so I think the public is going to demand to know who it is and what the other candidates were discussing. I don’t see Blago leaving because his office provides him some protection. We don’t even know if the Lt. Gov. was Senate Candidate 5 (though I would place money against it). Local media is trying to contact the House Speaker to see if the Generous Assembly will reconvene and vote on articles of impeachment (how long would impeachment take). I wouldn’t be surprised if Illinois is without a Senator for six months.

  • PD Shaw Link

    michael: it appears from the US Attorney’s statement, one of Blago’s motivations was “a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016.” Keep the dream alive!

  • PD Shaw Link

    The Illinois General Assembly doesn’t reconvene until January 12, 2009.

  • Andy Link

    I don’t know much about Illinois politics, but is there any chance this taint could be tied in anyway to Obama?

  • PD:

    Special sessions of the General Assembly may also be convened by joint proclamation of the presiding officers of both houses, issued as provided by law.

    Illinois Constitution, Article IV, Section 5b

  • Andy, my honest opinion is that Obama is pretty clean, at least by the standards of Illinois politics. But who knows?

    I think that corruption here is endemic and practically universal. Blagojevich may rat out a lot of his colleagues in exchange for a reduced sentence. Note that Blagojevich isn’t the big cheese here. Daly, Madigan, and other have a lot more squeeze.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Andy, it appears that the Governor may have sought some consideration for naming Obama’s preferred candidate to the Senate, but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

    The Obama-preferred candidate is probably Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who took her name out of consideration and announced she wanted to run for Governor in two years. She might reconsider now.

  • Andy Link

    PD Shaw,

    Thanks for that.


    I don’t mean any disrespect here, but how do tools like Blagojevich get elected in the first place? Don’t people there get sick of the corruption?

  • The best person to replace Blagojevich in case he gets convicted would be Pat Quinn, a very decent guy as mentioned.

  • how do tools like Blagojevich get elected in the first place? Don’t people there get sick of the corruption?

    As to the corruption, at least at a certain level we’re inured to it. I doubt there’s a person in the city of Chicago that doesn’t know of a case of corruption. I could point to a half dozen.

    I doubt that there’s a Chicago politician holding elective office who doesn’t know at first hand of corruption in office and are, consequently, accomplices to it. If we were to try and jail all of the corrupt politicians the courts would be backed up for decades and the jails full to overflowing.

    But as to why they get elected I have no idea. I don’t vote for ’em. I think there are a couple of reasons. First, there is no viable opposition party practically anywhere in Illinois. The primary election is the real election, people don’t vote in primaries, and the best organized, i.e. regular party candidate always wins.

  • Andy Link

    That explains a lot, thanks Dave.

  • PD — Candidate #1 is most likely Valarie Jarrett as her name was the leading rumor for the first week after the election and then she got moved straight to the White House as a senior advisor. I think candidate #2 is the AG, Madigan.

  • Jarrett is the most likely as Candidate #1 but it’s not certain. The fund-raising issue makes me wonder. We now so little about the candidates other than #5 that it’s hard to speculate.

    The reason that #5 is interesting is the possible wrong-doing. Of course, we’re only hearing one side of the story and that at third hand so we should be careful about getting too far ahead of the actual facts.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I thought Lisa Madigan publicly said she was not interested in the Senate. I don’t find such a Shermanesque statement in the news archives. The closest I’ve found is Madigan saying she’s not in the running for Senate and doesn’t believe she is being considered. So that doesn’t sound like Candidate #1.

  • Evil stuff, what are talking about mate, this is hilarious material! It’s almost at the level of a B movie comedy. Now for you a resident it may be depressing but think of the entertainment value you are providing to the world. Surely that is worth a wee bit of comically idiotic corruption.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Interesting piece from the indictment: “During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife can be heard in the background telling ROD BLAGOJEVICH to tell Deputy Governor A “to hold up that fucking Cubs shit. . . fuck them.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked Deputy Governor A what
    he thinks of his wife’s idea.”

    Robert Penn Warren eat your heart out.

  • Tom Strong Link

    My question is, how does Gov. Blagojevich get away using language like that while he’s got a Muppet on his head?

  • Muppet?! I thought it was a Shih-Tzu.

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