CHICAGO (AFP) — The embattled Illinois governor accused of trying to sell president-elect Barack Obama's senate seat to the highest bidder vowed to fight to his last breath to clear his name of corruption charges.
In his first public comments on the matter since his December 9 arrest, Rod Blagojevich vowed to stay in office despite mounting calls for him to resign and an impeachment inquiry.
"I am not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob," Blagojevich told reporters in a defiant three-minute address at his Chicago office.
"I intend to stay on the job and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong."
Blagojevich refused to speak specifically to the charges, saying that he was entitled to a presumption of innocence and that the only "appropriate forum" to address them was in a court of law.
"I am dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am," he said, adding that he would answer "every allegation that comes my way."
Blagojevich acknowledged his isolation, but said he was confident he would be vindicated and cited Rudyard Kipling's poem "If."
"I know there are some powerful forces arrayed against me. It's kind of lonely right now. But I have on my side the most powerful ally there is and it's the truth," he concluded.
Federal prosecutors accused the Democratic governor of engaging in "a political corruption crime spree" and offered evidence culled from wiretaps of the governor's home phone and bugs at his campaign office.
The 76-page FBI affidavit accuses the governor of a staggering pattern of corruption, including refusing to free up funds for a children's hospital until he received a 50,000-dollar campaign contribution and trying to get editors who were critical of his administration fired from the Chicago Tribune.
His lawyers have dismissed partial transcripts of his conversations about how he could trade Obama's senate seat for a cabinet post, ambassadorship or high-paying job as a bunch of "jabbering" that didn't go anywhere. They have also questioned the legality of the wiretap.
"I haven't seen one single action. Point out to me one single action that's in the complaint here that says the governor did anything. Maybe there was talk," Sam Adam Jr. told reporters after Blagojevich left without taking questions.
Adam also indicated that Blagojevich's statement Friday may not be his last word on the matter and that he will consider resigning if he feels the scandal is interfering with his ability to do his job.
"If the people of Illinois suffer he will step aside," he said.
Lieutenant Governor Patrick Quinn responded by renewing his call for Blagojevich to step aside so that the Illinois government can move forward.
"He is duty-bound to step aside under these perilous times and circumstances," Quinn said.
A battle was also brewing over whether a special election should be called to fill the seat Obama won in 2004 and relinquished after winning the November 4 presidential election.
Blagojevich's lawyers have said he does not intend to exercise his right to appoint a successor.
The scandal continues to be an unwelcome distraction for Obama as he prepares to take office on January 20.
While Obama's incoming administration has not been accused of any wrongdoing, the president-elect's team has faced questions over its relationship and contacts with the Democratic governor.
Obama, who has defended his staff saying he is certain they were not involved in any inappropriate behavior, is expected to release an internal review into the affair next week. He delayed its release at the request of prosecutors.
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