Obama Calls on Blagojevich to Resign

Published December 10, 2008

| FoxNews.com

President-elect Barack Obama is calling for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich  to resign, after the Illinois governor's arrest on corruption charges caused an unwelcome home-state distraction during an intense transition period. 

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said in an e-mail to FOX News Wednesday that Obama is siding with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and "many others" in calling for Blagojevich to step down. 

"Under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois," Gibbs said. 

He said Obama believes the Illinois General Assembly should "consider" calling for a special election to select a replacement for him in the U.S. Senate that "will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois." 

Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday, accused of scheming to enrich himself by selling Obama's vacant Senate seat. The governor has authority to appoint Senate replacements. 

Over the past two days since Blagojevich's arrest, Obama and his aides have largely refrained from commenting on the scandal. When he has spoken about the case, he's been cautious. 

In brief comments to reporters Tuesday, Obama said, "Like the rest of the people of Illinois I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney's office today," but he didn't go so far to condemn Blagojevich's alleged actions. 

He did add about Blagojevich's process of considering a successor: "I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so I was not aware of what was happening." 

In Chicago, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Tuesday that prosecutors were making "no allegations" that Obama was aware of any scheming.

Obama reiterated his stance in an interview published in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time," he said. 

But Obama wouldn't answer a question on whether he was aware of any conversations between the governor and his top aides, including incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel

"It's an ongoing investigation," Obama said. "I think it would be inappropriate for me to ... remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know." 

And, aides didn't say whether Emanuel, a Democratic Illinois congressman, was ever approached by the governor's emissaries involved in allegedly corrupt schemes. 

A discrepancy did emerge between Obama's statements and one made by his top adviser David Axelrod. Axelrod told FOX News Chicago on Nov. 23: "I know he's talked to the governor, and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."

But Axelrod retracted the remark Tuesday, issuing a statement saying: "I was mistaken. ... They did not then or at any time discuss the subject."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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