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Report: Illinois Gov. in Federal Custody (2nd Update) « The Washington Independent

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Rod Blagojevich, Illinois’ embattled Democratic governor, was taken into federal custody this morning in Chicago, following a three-year corruption investigation.

The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor’s North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics [...]

The Democratic governor has said he expects to make a decision on the state’s next senator in weeks.

At this time the details are sparse. The Tribune reported yesterday that Blagojevich has not been acccused of wrongdoing.

However, in the event that Blagojevich were to step down before naming Obama’s Senate replacement, there would be little danger of the seat falling into Republican hands. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is next in line to assume the governor’s office.

UPDATE: MSNBC reports that Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges for allegedly soliciting bribes related to President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

2nd UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune (PDF) has posted the federal complaint against Blagojevich and Harris, which includes two charges, on its Website.

The first count is conspiracy “to devise and participate in a scheme to defraud the State of Illinois and the people of the State of Illinois.”

The second count is a real jaw-dropper.

[D]efendants ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS, being agents of the State of Illinois, a State government which during a one-year period, beginning January 1, 2008 and continuing to the present, received federal benefits in excess of $10,000, 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,intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with business and transactions of the State of Illinois involving a thing of value of $5,000 or more, namely, the provision of millions of dollars in financial assistance by the State of Illinois, including through the Illinois Finance Authority, an agency of the State of Illinois, to the Tribune Company involving the Wrigley Field baseball stadium[.]

Translation: Blagojevich and Harris allegedly demanded the firing of members of Tribune editorial writers who were critical of Blagojevich, in exchange for Illinois state government approval of millions of dollars worth of financial assistance for the sale of Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, which is owned by The Tribune Company.

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