Blagojevich Vows To Fight Charges

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In an unwavering statement of innocence, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday he will be vindicated of federal corruption charges and has no intention of letting what he called a "political lynch mob" force him from his job.

"I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong," Blagojevich said, speaking for about three minutes in his first official public comments since his arrest last week.

The Democrat is accused, among other things, of plotting to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.

"I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob," Blagojevich said.

Still, one of the governor's attorneys said Blagojevich will consider his constituents as the case moves forward.

"He told me if it doesn't work, if it is too hard, if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside," attorney Sam Adam Jr. said after the governor finished speaking.

Blagojevich had been itching to talk, saying he wanted to tell his side of the story even though his lead defense attorney, Ed Genson, didn't like the idea. On Friday, Blagojevich asked state residents to "sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment."

"Afford me the same rights that you and your children have - the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself," said the governor, who said he wants to "answer every allegation" in court.

Genson, who did not attend Blagojevich's news conference, has said he plans to challenge the court-ordered wiretaps at the heart of the allegations against Blagojevich. Genson called the wiretaps inappropriate, if not illegal.

Genson said he expects a federal grand jury to indict his client, which likely would unseal many of the documents supporting the charges.

The governor is also accused of trying to strong-arm the Chicago Tribune into firing editorial writers who criticized him, and pressuring a hospital executive for campaign donations.

The accusations outraged lawmakers from the president-elect on down and many demanded Blagojevich resign. He has steadfastly ignored such pressure and has continued to show up to work at his Chicago office and sign bills.

Republican Party chairman Andy McKenna said Friday that anything short of resignation by Blagojevich was unacceptable. Blagojevich should resign and "spare voters any more heartache," McKenna said.

State lawmakers have appointed a committee to investigate Blagojevich and issue a recommendation on whether he should be impeached. The 21-member, bipartisan Illinois House panel began meeting Tuesday. If it recommends that Blagojevich should be impeached and the full House agrees, the state Senate would then decide whether the governor is guilty.

Panel members have pledged to do nothing to hinder the investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, but have asked for details of his case.

In a letter released Friday, the committee sought copies of the recorded conversations, the names of people listed only by code names in the criminal complaint and the names of anyone granted immunity by prosecutors.

Even though Fitzgerald is not legally bound to turn over transcripts of the governor's expletive-riddled wiretapped conversations, the defense team is demanding them, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

Those conversations could shed light on, among other things, the contacts between Blagojevich and the President-elect's office and the role of soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the search for a senate successor to Obama.

The committee's letter also lists dozens of people the committee would like to question - but only if "our inquiry does not interfere with your criminal investigation into the governor's office."

Fitzgerald's office had no comment on the committee's request or when it might respond, spokesman Randall Samborn said.

Impeachment committee members say they expect Fitzgerald to deny many of their requests. But even if he gives them little room to investigate the criminal allegations, they say, the committee still can consider the evidence described in the federal complaint against Blagojevich.

The impeachment process appears certain to grind on, possibly into next year, with or without Fitzgerald's help. Without it, the committee probably will emphasize some lower-profile allegations of misconduct against Blagojevich: defying the Legislature, failing to honor reporters' Freedom of Information requests, and trading state jobs and contracts for campaign contributions.
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