A handful of Illinois' top politicians called the state's disgraced governor incapacitated Sunday, issuing fresh calls for his resignation as lawmakers gear up for a session that could lead to his impeachment.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges, including allegations he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. The scandal has disrupted Obama's White House transition with questions being asked about his aides' contacts with Blagojevich regarding the Senate appointment.
Fellow Democrats Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, both likely candidates in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, criticized the governor anew during television appearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS's "Face the Nation."
"We don't have a governor that can legitimately govern," Madigan said.
Met with attorney Saturday
Blagojevich met with renowned criminal defense attorney Ed Genson in his downtown office on Saturday. The governor left his home again Sunday morning. Genson has said the two would make a "mutual decision" as to whether Genson would be retained Monday.
Madigan, a longtime Blagojevich foe, has asked the state Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unfit to serve, likening his corruption scandal to a debilitating illness. She said Sunday she expects word on whether the justices will hear her request "probably just in a few days."
Citing what she called "rumors in the media," Madigan also said she had heard Blagojevich himself could make an announcement about his political future Monday.
Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said Sunday that he has "no knowledge" of an announcement of any kind and that the governor "has no plans on resigning Monday."
As the legal maneuvering intensified, some observers speculated that he might be trying to leverage the governorship to his advantage in his criminal case — just like prosecutors said he did with the Senate seat for financial gain.
"I would be saying, 'Let me see what I can get in exchange for you resigning. Don't just give it up for nothing. Let me see if I can get you a better deal,'" said Steve Cron, a defense lawyer from Santa Monica, Calif.
Others suggested his lingering refusal to resign is more rooted in his ego than anything else. The governor has been known to love being in the spotlight, whether the attention is good or bad.
"You would think he would see his life collapsing around him," said Chicago defense lawyer John Beal, who was in the courtroom with Blagojevich this week and noted how carefree he seemed. "But he was the center of attention and seemed to love it."
Quinn said he did not know what Blagojevich's plans were but that submitting his resignation would be best for the governor, his family and the people of Illinois.
"He's gotta do something because our state is in crisis," Quinn said on "Meet the Press."
Lawmakers meet Monday
The Illinois Legislature meets Monday to consider stripping Blagojevich of his power to pick a replacement to fill Obama's seat and calling a special election.
They will also discuss whether to heed calls to launch impeachment proceedings against the wildly unpopular Blagojevich. A survey of Illinois lawmakers by GateHouse News Service found that 80 percent of those responding believe the Legislature should pursue impeachment quickly.
State House Minority Leader Tom Cross, a Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday" that when it comes to filling Obama's seat, a special election is the best option to "eliminate any appearance of impropriety."
"We've just been shocked as a state over the last four or five days and in order to restore whatever integrity we have left in this state, we have to make it as transparent as possible," Cross said.
Quinn said he has seen legislation that would allow him to temporarily appoint someone to the Senate seat until a special election if Blagojevich stepped down.
The scandal continued to hound Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rahm Emanuel, Obama's choice for White House chief of staff. About a dozen protesters stood outside Jackson's office Saturday demanding his resignation, and Republicans called for more information from Obama about Emanuel's role in the Senate selection process.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel had conversations — captured on wiretaps — before the election with the Blagojevich administration about who would replace Obama in the Senate. The report did not suggest any dealmaking in the conversations, and Obama has strongly denied that anyone on his team committed wrongdoing.
Jackson was identified as one of the candidates Blagojevich was considering to replace Obama, and a criminal complaint said his supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for the governor to make the appointment happen.