Obama aides refuse to discuss review
President-elect Barack Obama is refusing to answer any questions about the internal review he has ordered into Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to sell his former Senate seat, saying he will do so when the examination is finished.
Obama’s staff has declined to respond to even basic questions, like who is conducting the probe, how long it will take, what issues are being explored and whether they are working with federal investigators. Obama has promised transparency throughout his service and to divulge contacts his staff has had with Blagojevich’s office in the coming days. But his staff has locked down on inquiries in the meantime.
— The Associated Press
Chicago Illinois plunged deeper into turmoil Friday over disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the attorney general asked the state’s highest court to strip the governor of his powers, billions of dollars in bills went unpaid and lawmakers moved closer to impeaching the scandal-plagued politician.
But Blagojevich showed no sign of backing down. He took time to pray with ministers at his home and signed a bill that extends insurance coverage for autistic kids, sending a sign to his critics that he’s still in charge.
In the midst of it all, the state headed toward an extraordinary constitutional showdown. Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unfit to serve, likening his corruption scandal to a debilitating illness as she ramped up pressure on the governor to resign. The move seeks to hand power over to the lieutenant governor.
“I recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but these are extraordinary circumstances,” Madigan said.
It is the first time in Illinois history that such an action was taken. The attorney general is applying a rule that was intended to cover cases in which a governor is incapacitated for health reasons.
The Democrat is “unable to serve as governor due to disability and should not rightfully continue to hold that office,” according to the motion. “His ability to provide effective leadership has been eliminated, and the state government is paralyzed.”
The attorney general, also a Democrat, asked the court to strip the governor of his duties until possible impeachment proceedings and his criminal case run their course. If he does not step down and is not impeached or convicted, Blagojevich could go to the court and ask to be reinstated.
The scandal has also begun to impede state business, Madigan said.
Illinois has billions of dollars in unpaid bills, including payments to Medicaid patients, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and schools, and the state has approved $1.4 billion in short-term borrowing to keep cash flowing. But before the borrowing takes effect, Madigan said she has to certify that there is not any legal proceeding threatening the ability of the governor to hold his office.