By Bethany Jaeger
Dana Heupel contributed to this report
Gov. Rod Blagojevich proclaimed his innocence and said he will fight the criminal charges brought against him by federal investigators earlier this month. Although he paused at times to compose himself, his tone and his conviction stayed true to the audacious Blagojevich that we have come to know.
"I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I intend to 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."
He spoke from a Chicago news conference, seen on national television, the first time he's addressed the public since his December 9 arrest. It was an ironic juxtaposition: Blagojevich spoke about 10 minutes after another Chicago news conference of President-elect Barack Obama, whose vacant U.S. Senate seat was the impetus for Blagojevich's arrest. At the Drake Hotel-Chicago, Obama officially announced former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, a Peoria Republican, as transportation secretary.
At a state building a few blocks away, Blagojevich denounced the criminal complaints, including that he tried to sell Obama's Senate seat and repeatedly schemed to personally gain from public office. He said he would not step down because of "false accusations and a political lynch mob."
He also took a direct shot at Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan by criticizing his "accusers and political enemies" of talking about his case in "30-second sound bites on Meet the Press or on the TV news."
In a plight to the public, he pleaded for patience and the presumption of innocence.
"It’s kind of lonely right now, but I have on my side the most powerful ally there is, and it’s the truth. And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong."
He did not address how he would continue to manage the state. However, after Blagojevich walked away without taking questions, a member of his legal defense, Sam Adam Jr., said the governor could step aside in the future "if the people of Illinois suffer." But Adam said he has every faith that Blagojevich will continue to be able to governor. "He can do it, and he will."
Meanwhile, the Illinois House impeachment investigation is on a three-day break and will reconvene in Springfield Monday.