Earthquake: Illinois Gov. Arrested; Charged With Selling Obama’s Senate Seat

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Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested by FBI agents Tuesday morning on federal corruption charges, officials said.

His chief of staff John Harris was also charged, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed in a statement. Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade for personal gain the state’s U.S. Senate seat, which is being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Just when you think that the Global Financial Meltdown is the worst of our problems. Bam!

UPDATE: It’s even worse than that. The U.S. Attorney says that Blagojevich threatened “to withold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich.” Wow. Read the complaint and press release here. No need to guess who prosecutor is. It’s the man who convicted Scooter Libby, sent Judith Miller to jail, and even created some turmoil here at TIME magazine. Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is one of those scandals that will just get bigger. According to DOJ Press release, Blagojevich claimed he was approached by an associate of “Senate Candidate 5.” Said the governor: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emmisary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.” No word yet on the identity of Senate Candidate 5.

MORE: The code name of the joint anti-corruption investigation by DOJ, IRS, US Postal and the US Dept. of Labor: “Operation Board Games.” Quick question: Will anyone in Obamaland, including even the president-elect himself, have to testify? Possible answer, from the press release: “Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but ‘they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.’ “

EVEN MORE: From the Dept. of Not Gonna Happen: “Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being ‘stuck’ as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office. . . . He added later that the seat ‘is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.’ “

MORE: The Horsetrade Idea: “Over the next couple of days – Election Day and the day after – Blagojevich was captured discussing with Deputy Governor A whether he could obtain a cabinet position, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy or various ambassadorships. . . .  The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him the head of a private foundation. . . . [I]n a three-way call with Harris and Advisor B, a consultant in Washington, Blagojevich and the others allegedly discussed the prospect of a three-way deal for the Senate appointment involving an organization called ‘Change to Win,’ which is affiliated with various unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).”

QUOTE OF THE YEAR: The good Gov. Blagojevich on Monday: “I don’t believe there’s any cloud that hangs over me. I think there’s nothing but sunshine hanging over me,” he said. “I don’t care whether you tape me privately or publicly. I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful.” Oy.