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CHICAGO – In an unwavering statement of innocence, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday he will be vindicated of criminal corruption charges and has no intention of letting what he called a “political lynch mob” force him from his job.

“I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong,” Blagojevich said, speaking for about three minutes in his first substantial public comments since his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.

The Democrat is accused, among other things, of plotting to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat in secretly recorded phone conversations.

“I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob,” Blagojevich said.

Still, one of the governor’s attorneys said Blagojevich will take his constituents into account as the case moves forward.

“He told me if it doesn’t work, if it is too hard if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside,” attorney Sam Adam, Jr., after the governor finished speaking.

Itching to talk
Blagojevich had been itching to talk, saying he wanted to tell his side of the story even though his lead defense attorney, Ed Genson, didn’t like the idea. On Friday, Blagojevich asked Illinoisans to “sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment.”

“Afford me the same rights that you and your children have — the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself,” said the governor, who said he wants to “answer every allegation” in court.

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springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The speaker of the Illinois House took the first step Monday toward impeaching scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appointing a committee to recommend whether he should be ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

“We’re going to proceed with all due speed, but we’re going to make sure that what we do is done correctly,” said Speaker Michael Madigan, who often has clashed with fellow Democrat Blagojevich.

Once the committee makes a recommendation, the full House will formally decide whether to file impeachment charges. The Senate then would rule on the charges.

Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud and bribery charges, including allegations of a scheme to profit from his power to appoint a replacement for the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient.

The governor, who remains defiant and returned to work Monday to sign a tax credit bill, had no immediate reaction to the impeachment committee, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said after Madigan’s announcement.

“Impeachment talk’s nothing new for this governor,” Guerrero said. “They’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

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Indeed, Madigan said Monday his staff has been reviewing the legal possibilities for impeachment for about a year. His office produced a memo earlier this year outlining all the arguments legislative candidates could make in favor of impeachment.

Blagojevich’s administration has been under a federal corruption investigation for years.

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Cameras capture Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on his way into work, one day after he was arrested on corruption charges, including conspiring to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat. (Dec. 10)