Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrested on federal charges

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald announces charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, at a news conference Tuesday. (Chuck Berman / Tribune)

Prosecutors said Blagojevich gave serious consideration to appointing himself to the Senate seat, believing himself to be "stuck" in his job as governor. Recordings, according to the affidavit, showed Blagojevich thinking about going to the Senate to avoid potential impeachment in Springfield and to try to remake his image for a possible 2016 run for the presidency.

Little more than a month ago, a Tribune poll found Blagojevich had a 13 percent job approval rating among voters--a record low in more than three decades of surveys on statewide officials.

Obama, who made much during his presidential campaign of saying he escaped Chicago's political culture of sleaze in his career as a state and U.S. senator, found the process of picking his successor mired in corruption.

The president-elect said Tuesday that he had no conversations with Blagojevich about his successor in the Senate. But he would not answer whether any of his aides had discussions with a governor looking for an opportunity to deal. Fitzgerald said prosecutors were making "no allegations that [Obama was] aware of anything."

Only a day earlier, when Blagojevich was in his element, playing the role of political populist before protesting workers at the Republic Window & Door plant, the governor said emphatically that any conversations he has had were "always lawful." The governor already had been charged in the sealed Dec. 7 complaint.

But time after time, in recordings described in the affidavit, Blagojevich pressured contractors and other recipients of taxpayer funds to pony up to his campaign.

"If they don't perform, [expletive] 'em," he said, according to the affidavit, in one instance involving an expected $500,000 in donations from a tollway construction contractor.

The affidavit made anonymous references to many people, some as potential victims and some as helping facilitate schemes on behalf of Blagojevich. Fitzgerald said the investigation was not complete as federal authorities continued to try to track down which schemes were carried out and who might be involved.

Among them is an individual described in the affidavit as Fundraiser A and chairman of Friends of Blagojevich. Blagojevich's brother Robert is his campaign chairman. Fundraiser A is listed several times in the affidavit as helping the governor pressure contributors.

At one point when the governor remarks that he is not involved in any illegal activity, his brother responds by saying "unless prospectively somebody gets you on a wire." Rob Blagojevich could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, even before Blagojevich left the Dirksen Federal Building, the pressure was mounting for him to step down or be removed. Every statewide office holder in Illinois except Blagojevich himself called for his resignation.

The developments have raised questions about who will serve as the state's chief executive. But Blagojevich remains empowered in the post unless he either resigns, is removed from office by the legislature or convicted of the crimes of which he's been accused.

The tumultuous events left even one of the governor's harshest--and closest--critics saddened. "It's a terrible day, terrible," said his estranged father-in-law, Ald. Richard Mell (33rd). "My main concern right now is for my daughter and my grandchildren. That's all I want to say right now."

Tribune reporters Monique Garcia, Susan Kuczka, David Heinzmann and Ray Long contributed to this report.