Obama Says Staff Clear in IL Gov Scandal

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President-elect Barack Obama declared that his staff had no part in the alleged deal making for his Senate seat, and repeated his call for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to step down, Thursday.

"I hope that the governor himself comes to the conclusion that he can no longer effectively serve and that he does resign," Obama said during the midday press conference. "I think the public trust has been violated. I do not think that the governor at this point can effectively serve the people of Illinois."

Click play for more insight from Quin Hillyer with the Washington Examiner, following this report.

Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday, accused of trying to barter Obama's Senate seat for campaign cash or a lucrative job inside or outside government. So far, Blagojevich has ignored calls for his resignation and has declared his innocence. He still has the power to appoint a Senate successor to Obama.

Obama called the Thursday afternoon news conference to introduce former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as his choice for secretary of Health and Human sSrvices. But the conference focus quickly turned to the scandal.

All but four questions asked Obama by reporters dealt with the Illinois governor.

"What I'm absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any deal making around my Senate seat," he said. "That I'm absolutely certain of. That would be a violation of everything that this campaign has been about. And that's not how we do business."

"I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part on any deals related to this seat," Obama continued. "This Senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade. It belongs to the people of Illinois."

Obama also said he hopes the Illinois state legislature can quickly determine how to name his Senate replacement.

This could involve a special election. But that process could take a while, especially if Blagojevich continues to dig in his heels and stay in office.

A Thorny Issue for Obama

CBN News Senior National Correspondent David Brody, who followed Obama on the campaign trail for the last two years, said the issue will not soon go away for the president-elect.

"Here's the one thing we know for sure after Obama's Thursday press conference -- this situation is not going away anytime soon," Brody said.

"This very much has the feel of a trickle, trickle, trickle scenario and that is not good news for team Obama," he continued. "It becomes not only a distraction, but takes them off message.

"Obama spoke extensively during the presidential campaign about transparency and honest ethics, so in the press conference he made clear that his staff wouldn't be a party to any sort of corruption scandal like this," Brody said.

"As each day goes by, there seems to be more questions than answers," Brody explained. "We expect team Obama to lay out any potential connections between his staff and Governor Blagojevic in the next few days.

"The problem is this is such a tangled web and it is after all, Chicago- style corrupt politics, so you get the sense that this is really just the beginning and no where close to the end of this story," he said.

Source: CBN News, The Associated Press

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