President-elect Barack Obama called on the Democratic governor of Illinois to resign on Wednesday after he was charged with trying to sell Obama’s US Senate seat and swap favours for money.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Governor Rod Blagojevich needed to step down because “under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois”.
Blagojevich left his stately brick house in Chicago on Wednesday, his 52nd birthday, under siege by news media but said nothing. He went to work and attended budget meetings, his office said.
His lawyer has told reporters the governor denies any wrongdoing.
The 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus called on Blagojevich to step down and refrain from naming Obama’s successor, even threatening to refuse to seat any replacement chosen by the Illinois governor.
“In light of your arrest yesterday on alleged federal corruption charges related to that Senate seat, any appointment by you would raise serious questions,” the caucus wrote to Blagojevich.
There were mounting calls within Obama’s home state to strip Blagojevich of the power to make the appointment he allegedly tried to barter, either by driving him from office through legal means or letting voters fill the Senate seat with a special election.
His office said Bob Greenlee, one of three deputy governors in appointed positions, had resigned. No reason was given.
In Washington, Jesse Jackson Jr, a Democratic US congressman from Illinois who waged a public campaign to win Obama’s seat, said he had done nothing wrong.
His lawyer identified Jackson as the unnamed Senate hopeful in a government wiretap whose “associate” Blagojevich claimed was willing to raise $1 million in exchange for a Senate seat.
“I did not initiate or authorise anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf,” said the son of veteran civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
“I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case or to propose a deal about a US Senate seat, period,” he added.
Obama taps Nobel physicist for energy secretary
President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Nobel prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, a strong advocate of alternative and renewable energy research, to be his energy secretary, US media reported on Thursday
Obama has also decided to name three experienced policy makers and regulators to key environmental jobs, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times wrote, suggesting he plans to push for a bold shift on climate and energy issues.