A source said today that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning. The U.S. attorney’s office would not confirm the information, and a spokesman for the governor did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
Blagojevich is up for re-election in 2010, if he’s still in office at that point. In case he resigns or is removed from office, his lieutenant governor is Democrat Patrick Quinn.
UPDATE: MSNBC confirms:
Federal officials say Illinois Gov. Blagojevich arrested on corruption charges
UPDATE II: More:
A source told ABC7’s Chuck Goudie that Gov. Blagojevich was taken into federal custody Tuesday morning on his home on Sunnyside. His chief of staff, John Harris, was also arrested
Officials are expected to hold a news conference later today. Gov. Blagojevich may also make a court appearance.
The feds have been investigating pay-to-play politics for three years in Illinois on how the state has hired for state jobs. They did not release details about he charges.
Blagojevich has the task of replacing President-Elect Barack Obama in the Senate; now that he’s in federal custody, it’s difficult to say how that process will now play out.
UPDATE III: Uh, speaking of that…
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade for personal gain the state’s U.S. Senate seat, which is being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Yes, you read that correctly. Even though he knew he was under federal investigation, Blagojevich was arrested for trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat.
UPDATE IV: You can read the 78-page criminal complaint here [PDF].
I saw throw the book at him; Blagojevich has never really been a strong progressive, anyway and the Democratic Party is far better off without people like him and William Jefferson around.
UPDATE V: Here’s the part about Obama’s Senate seat:
By law, after the President-elect’s resignation of his position as a U.S. Senator, which was effective on November 16, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has sole authority to appoint his replacement for the two years remaining of the President-elect’s Senate term. During the course of this investigation, agents have intercepted a series of communications regarding the efforts of ROD BLAGOJEVICH, JOHN HARRIS, and others to misuse this power to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, for ROD BLAGOJEVICH and his family. In particular, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has been intercepted conspiring to trade the senate seat for particular positions that the President-elect has the power to appoint (e.g. the Secretary of Health and Human Services). ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for his wife’s placement on paid corporate boards or ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s placement at a private foundation in a significant position with a substantial salary. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for millions of dollars in funding for a non-profit organization that he would start and that would employ him at a substantial salary after he left the governorship.
Reading the criminal complaint, it sounds like there was someone Obama wanted to succeed him (identified only as Senate Candidate 1), but that Blagojevich wasn’t going to appoint that person without receiving a high-paying appointment (Blagojevich’s financial troubles are often mentioned in the complaint) in return.
The job of Secretary of Health and Human Services is mentioned in the compliant as the position Blagojevich was interested in. Fortunately, it looks like Obama wasn’t playing ball considering that he tapped former Senator Tom Daschle for this position weeks ago.
UPDATE VI: It looks like the Obama transition was not willing to play along:
In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”
It’s pretty clear that Senate Candidate 1 is Valerie Jarrett, who Obama reportedly wanted to replace him but who removed herself from consideration several weeks ago.
The bigger question is, who is Senate Candidate 5? Because from the look of things, that person was willing to pay-for-play. Supposedly, he/she offered to fundraise for Blagojevich’s reelection in exchange for the appointment.
Marc Ambinder thinks it’s Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.:
From the context, it’s probably Jesse Jackson. Jr.
“Later on December 4, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke to Fundraiser A. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated he was “elevating” Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates for the open Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided ROD BLAGOJEVICH with something “tangible up front.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH noted he was going to meet with Senate Candidate 5 in the next few days.”
The only candidate with whom Blagojevich met within that period was Jesse Jackson, Jr.
UPDATE VII: First, it’s important to note that Obama and Blagojevich were never political allies. In fact, Blagojevich wasn’t even invited to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, despite being 1 of just 28 Democratic Governors in America.
Second, it’s now being reported that it was the Obama transition team who actually blew the whistle on Blagojevich:
Local news reports, meanwhile, suggest that it was Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel who blew the whistle on the governor.
If that’s true, Rahm Emanuel is a hero and the incoming Obama administration just proved a fantastically strong commitment to clean government.
I mean, just compare how Republicans and Democrats treat corruption in their ranks–Republicans defend their corrupt members while Democrats work to take down corrupt Democrats.
UPDATE VIII: Despite his arrest and likely indictment, it looks like Blagojevich will still appoint Obama’s successor.
I don’t think he’ll resign as Governor; the privileges of his office are all he has left. And according to the Illinois constitution, the Lieutenant Governor can only take over
“[i]f the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability.”
In other words, being arrested, indicted and/or convicted wouldn’t automatically cause Blagojevich to lose his office.
The most viable option for his removal is impeachment. But that would be somewhat difficult, since the Illinois legislature is out of session until January 12th (the new Congress is inaugurated January 3rd, so it’s likely Blagojevich would chose someone before then).
They could call a special session to address this, but that would require a joint proclamation by both houses of the legislature. And if I were Blagojevich I would be trying to fill this vacancy as soon as possible, since it’s all the leverage he has left.
UPDATE IX: Ben Smith picks up on the Rahm-Emanuel-as-whistleblower aspect of this story:
Jack Connaty, of Chicago’s Fox affiliate, reported this morning:
We did receive a tip this morning that perhaps all of this came together so quickly because the Governor may have reached out to Rahm Emanuel, the president-elect’s chief of staff, in attempting to leverage filling the Senate seat. And it may have been Rahm Emanuel who tipped the scale and made this move as quickly as it did.
UPDATE X: And Politico is also reporting that impeachment proceedings against Blagojevich are imminent:
Several Democratic operatives from Illinois say the Illinois state legislature will likely move as quickly as possible to hold impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), in attempts to prevent the jailed governor from appointing President-elect Barack Obama’s successor in the Senate.
The Illinois General Assembly would be tasked with holding impeachment hearings, and the state Senate would vote on a conviction.
Illinois law allows Blagojevich to make an appointment while in jail. While the decision would be a disaster for Democrats politically, no one is ruling out that prospect. Any candidate appointed by the jailed governor would be immediately tainted, and would face immense hurdles winning on their own in 2010.
Lieutenant governor Pat Quinn would take over if Blagojevich was forced to step down. He’s from the progressive wing of the state Democratic party, and is very close with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Schakowsky was not considered a frontrunner in the appointment process, but could get newfound consideration if Quinn becomes governor.
UPDATE XI: Apparently, the story that Rahm Emanuel tipped the feds off to Blagojevich’s activities is false.
It was fun while it lasted.