From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
The breaking news from the Chicago Tribune: "A source said today that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning." More: "U.S. attorney's office spokesman Randall Samborn said both Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested today."
The charge, per the AP: Federal authorities "accused him of attempting to benefit financially from his position to appoint Barack Obama's Senate replacement." Wow.
A few points here:
-- How does this impact the process to fill Obama's seat? If Blagojevich ends up making the appointment, this indictment probably guarantees it has to be a caretaker. How can a Dem accept the appointment after this corruption charge and then run as the guy/gal that Blago appointed?
-- If Blagojevich decides not to resign, the Illinois state legislature could decide to impeach him. That would work as follows, per Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan's press secretary Steve Brown: (1) It would require someone to file a resolution; (2) there would then be hearings in the House; (3) there would then be a vote in the House; and (4) if the House votes to impeach, then there would be a trial in the Senate.
-- What if something like this had happened in, say, October? How would that have impacted Obama's presidential candidacy? No doubt that the charges don't help the image of Chicago politics.
-- Now get this: If Blago goes to prison, and former Gov. George Ryan isn't commuted by President Bush, you'd have two Illinois governors in prison AT THE SAME TIME. What's more, by our count, Blagojevich would become the FOURTH Illinois governor to go to prison (following Ryan, Otto Kerner, and Dan Walker).
*** UPDATE *** Illiniois' lieutenant governor is Pat Quinn, a Democrat, who would replace Blagojevich if he's ousted from office.
*** UPDATE 2 *** The Republican Governors Association is calling for Blagojevich to resign: "The Governor of Illinois should immediately resign from office and allow the people of Illinois to pursue honest leadership," said Nick Ayers, executive director of the RGA. "Governors should focus on providing honest and productive leadership for their states, but today unfortunately marks the second time in a year that a Democratic governor in one of the nation's largest states was implicated in a serious criminal matter. The Governor betrayed the trust of the voters of Illinois in an effort to enrich himself -- the citizens deserve better. The American people are tired of corrupt, pay-to-play politicians."
*** UPDATE 3 *** Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R), the new head of the NRSC, has the following statement (which is magnanimous at first blush, but also widens the scope to include a Democratic cog -- unions):
"Unfortunately, neither political party has been immune to corruption by a select few bent on abusing the public trust. But it's the responsibility of leaders in both parties to restore accountability, strengthen transparency and repair American's faith in their government. The serious allegations laid out by federal prosecutors today raise more questions than answers surrounding those who have been seeking this Senate seat, as well as those working to keep it under Democratic control.
"Every Democratic and labor union official, whether in Illinois or in their national organizations, who has spoken with the Governor or his aides about this U.S. Senate seat should step forward and immediately make public the full details of those conversations and meetings. The stain of corruption needs to be lifted from this selection process and the public trust restored."
*** UPDATE 4 *** Rep. Jan Schakowski, thought to be a contender for Obama's vacated Senate seat, calls for Blagojevich to be impeached: "This is a sad day for the people of Illinois. The charges against Governor Blagojevich are very serious and damaging. It is in the best interest of the State of Illinois that Governor Blagojevich resign from office immediately. If he does not resign, the state legislature should reconvene for a special session immediately and begin impeachment proceedings against Governor Blagojevich. I have already called the Illinois Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, and Illinois State Senate President, Emil Jones, to ask them to come back into session to begin impeachment proceedings."