Fitzgerald held a news conference on the Blagojevich arrest this morning. We're looking for the full video (found it) - you can see the full transcript here at the New York Times. Special Agent Robert Grant, the agent in charge of the FBI Chicago Office said what many of us have known long enough to get jaded about it:
If [Illinois] isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it is certainly one hell of a competitor.I'm not looking for extensive coverage of that on the national news. Democrat Blagojevich is one of many corrupt elected officials in this state. (I think its more of them than many people think, to tell you the truth. But I'm just an ordinary taxed-to-the-max citizen, so what do I know?) Already some in the media are making excuses for him. He had money problems. Maybe he was just desperate for the cash. Maybe it was just a political arrangement, and not as bad as it sounds. (Once again, you can read the criminal complaint in PDF here, and the full DOJ news release here, lest you be seduced by the media siren song.)
Points to remember from the criminal complaint that I've found so far:
[He] corruptly solicited and demanded a thing of value, namely, the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical of ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH.All are at pains to point out that Obama floated above it all, and are claiming that he is a "victim" of a shakedown regarding his [Obama's] choice for the vacant U.S. Senate seat, (not doing Chicago-style backroom deals to get his choice appointed). There is speculation, however, about which of Obama's close associates may be 'touched' by the investigation. In media reports I'm hearing, Fitzgerald is quoted to say that "Obama is not guilty of any wrongdoing." (Does that sound like Fitz to you?) It bears repeating that Fitzgerald did say this:
According to Individual A, on October 8, 2008, during a discussion of fundraising from various individuals and entities, the discussion turned to Children’s Memorial Hospital, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Individual A words to the effect of “I’m going to do $8 million for them. I want to get [Hospital Executive 1] for 50.” [i.e. He's giving Children's Memorial $8 million in exchange for a $50,000 campaign contribution.]
BLAGOJEVICH’s efforts to illegally obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official action, in violation of his duty of honest services to the State and people of Illinois. The interceptions to date have corroborated the testimony of witnesses in the Rezko Trial who testified that ROD BLAGOJEVICH was involved in obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for official action and directly corroborate the information provided by Individual A that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is engaged in an effort to obtain as many contributions as possible from persons doing business with the State of Illinois before the end of the year.
". . . if you look at the complaint, there is no allegation that the President Elect - there is no reference in the complaint to any conversations involving the President Elect, or indicating that the President Elect was aware of it. That's all I can say."What is generally misunderstood, I think, is that this Democrat-machine way of "doing the peoples' business" is so entrenched here that many don't see the problem. You pay a little somthin', you get a job, or a contract, or a favor - that's how it's done here. What's the big deal? Loyalty to the Democratic Party (certainly not the people) is the supreme moral good.
Not many in the media expose how this culture undermines democracy in Illinois. There are some of us here who fall into the no-pay no-play category, and are sickened by the corruption, and tired of paying for it. And all we hear from those outside, who are ignorant of the situation, is how stupid we are for "continuing to elect" these sewer rats, as if we had a cornucopia of political choice. When I hear that, I know, you ain't from around here, are ya'?
Full text of the DOJ Press Release
Criminal Complaint (PDF)
US DOJ Northern District Press Room
Complete transcript of the DOJ News Briefing
Full video of the FBI/DOJ news conference (C-SPAN, 49 minutes)