Ill. Official: Blagojevich Must Go Now

2007/5/22: Rod Blagojevich headshot, as Illinois governor, photo on black
AP Photo

Illinois's highest law enforcement official said it was "imperative" that the disgraced governor of her state resign his office before the legislature begins the process of impeachment, so that the lieutenant governor can take over and "legitimately" exercise the power and duties of that office.

Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is facing calls for his resignation and impeachment in the wake of a federal indictment charging he was trying to "sell" Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

This week Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit, asking the state Supreme Court to intervene and remove him from his duties.

"The Illinois constitution does gives the Illinois Supreme Court a role in determining whether the governor is able to serve," she told Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer.

She said the term "disability" - referencing Blagojevich's ability to serve - is not limited to either a mental or a physical disability.

Madigan admitted that the court has discretion as to whether it will even hear the case. "We would hope to hear from them sooner rather than later, probably just in a few days, actually," she said.

She said there have been rumors in the media that the governor might make an announcement, perhaps Monday, about his intentions. "But at this point, we're really in a situation, here in the state of Illinois, where we don't have a governor who can legitimately govern."

"Do you think at this point that the governor could actually appoint anyone to fill that Senate seat," Schieffer asked, "because I can't imagine anyone would accept the appointment at this point."

"Exactly," said Madigan, "nobody in their right mind would accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat that this governor made. The legislature tomorrow is also scheduled to take up a law that would basically allow a special election to fill that seat. And I think that's what the people of the state deserve and want at this point."

Madigan also revealed that her office had provided assistance and information to federal law enforcement authorities during their ongoing investigation of Blagojevich, but would not go into specifics.

"When Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney here, filed those criminal charges earlier this week, he made it very clear that one of the reasons behind his decision to do so was that there was a continuing political corruption crime spree going on out of the governor's office," said Madigan (left), "obviously with the governor involved in trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat, in trying to get campaign contributions for signing legislation, for making sure we're not going to give money to a significant children's hospital unless he got campaign contributions; trying to fire a member of the Tribune editorial board, on and on and on."

Also on the program, Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University talked about the early efforts by Obama to distance himself from Blagojevich (who is currently in his second term as governor) and other examples of corruption in Illinois politics. "I think Mr. Obama has distanced himself strategically from that."

Dyson referenced a Washington Post article which described how Obama had worked to distance himself from Blagojevich since early on. "So I think in the long run that it will serve to underscore what he has achieved in contrast to the politics of Illinois, and it calls forth his commitment to be transparent in his own political operation."

Dyson also spoke of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Blagojevich said in a recorded conversation that emissaries of Jackson claimed they would be interested in making a campaign donation of $500,000 in return for a Senate appointment. Federal officials have stated Jackson (named in the federal indictment as "Senate Candidate Number 5") is not a target of their investigation, and Jackson has denied any knowledge or consent of cutting a deal for Obama's vacant seat.

How will this affect Jackson's political future?

"There's no question an appointment [now] is out of the question," said Dyson (left), "but I think that he still has a chance in an election.

"As he's indicated already, he has got to clear his name. And I think that he's been attempting to be transparent. He's come forward. Bill Bennett even said, look, if you have no problem with something and you've been accused of something, then stand on the rooftops and declare it." Dyson said Jesse Jackson Jr. has done so.

"What is the linchpin here is the governor has been so corrupt and has been so immoral, it seems that he's poisoned everybody who has come within his sphere. And I think that's part of the problem."

Also on the program, Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bob Corker, R-Tenn. discussed the auto industry bailout.

Read the full "Face the Nation" transcript here.

By producer David Morgan.