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Obama calls on Illinois governor to resign

  • Story Highlights
  • Obama spokesman: It's "difficult for the governor to ... serve the people of Illinois"
  • Sen. Dick Durbin also calls for Gov. Rod Blagojevich's resignation
  • Durbin asks Illinois governor not to fill Obama's Senate seat
  • Obama supports a bill authorizing a special election, spokesman says
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From Ed Henry
CNN White House Correspondent
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(CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday called for Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign, a day after Blagojevich's arrest on corruption charges.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, and Barack Obama attend a 2007 rally for Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, and Barack Obama attend a 2007 rally for Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid.

"The president-elect agrees with [Illinois] Lt. Gov. [Pat] Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

FBI agents on Tuesday arrested Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, on federal corruption charges related in part to the selection of Obama's successor to the Senate.

Obama's former partner in the Senate, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, has also called on Blagojevich to step down immediately.

"Beyond guilt or innocence, the charges against you raise serious questions about your ability to carry out your duties as chief executive of our state," Durbin wrote in a letter sent to Blagojevich. Explainer: Federal complaint against Blagojevich »

Durbin also asked Blagojevich not to name a successor to Obama.

"Because of the nature of the charges against you, no matter whom you were to select, that individual would be under a cloud of suspicion. That would not serve our state, our nation, or the United States Senate," Durbin wrote.

Even if Blagojevich named a replacement for Obama, it is unclear whether the Senate would seat the governor's choice. The Constitution gives the Senate the sole authority to decide who is qualified to serve as a senator. Video Watch whom Blagojevich has considered »

Gibbs said Obama also supported legislation that Illinois lawmakers will consider next week to authorize a special election to choose his successor. Explainer: Illinois governors in hot water »

Obama believes the lawmakers should "put in place a process to select a new senator that will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois," Gibbs said.

The Illinois Legislature will begin a special session Monday to consider legislation that would authorize a special election to choose Obama's successor.

Cindy Davidsmeyer, a spokeswoman for Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, said a House committee was scheduled to consider the bill Monday afternoon and then the full House would vote afterward. iReport.com: Do you trust your leaders?

The Senate could consider the legislation as soon as the next day, Davidsmeyer said. Video Watch what was in the complaint against Blagojevich »

Obama on Tuesday declined to comment on the arrest, saying, "Like the rest of the people of Illinois I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney's office."

Obama also said he had not contacted Blagojevich about his possible successor, adding, "I was not aware of what was happening." Video Watch Obama's ties to the Illinois governor »

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But Obama adviser David Axelrod told a Chicago television station in November that Obama had spoken to the governor about his successor.

Axelrod corrected himself Tuesday, saying, that the president-elect and Blagojevich "did not then or at any time discuss the subject."

CNN's Scott J. Anderson contributed to this report.

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