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Obama: No Contacts With Disgraced Governor


President-elect Barack Obama says he did not discuss his vacant Senate seat with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested earlier this week on corruption charges. The scandal has become a distraction for Mr. Obama as he prepares to become the nation's 44th president next month.

The president-elect appeared at a news conference in Chicago to announce some key health-care appointments Thursday.

But Mr. Obama quickly addressed the corruption scandal that has engulfed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested on Monday on charges of trying to sell Mr. Obama's now vacant Senate seat.

Mr. Obama said he was as appalled and disappointed as anyone by the revelations released by federal prosecutors in the Blagojevich case.

"I had no contact with the governor's office," said President-elect Obama. "I did not speak to the governor about these issues. That I know for certain."

Mr. Obama went on to say that he was confident that no members of his transition staff had any involvement in the governor's alleged scheme to sell his former Senate seat to the highest bidder.

"What I want to do is to gather all the facts about any staff contacts that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office and we will have those in the next few days and we will present them," Mr. Obama said. "But what I am absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any deal making around my Senate seat. That I am absolutely certain of."

Mr. Obama said he believes that Governor Blagojevich can no longer effectively serve the people of Illinois and that he should resign.

The president-elect said his former Senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade, it belongs to the people of Illinois, and they deserve the best possible representation.

Meanwhile, pressure continues to build on Blagojevich to resign.

Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan says she is prepared to ask the state Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unfit to serve.

Illinois Lieutenant-Governor Pat Quinn told NBC's Today show that Blagojevich should resign and that a special election should be held to choose a new senator.

"I have not spoke to the governor since the summer of 2007," said Quinn. "I led an effort to try and put recall on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in Illinois. It has widespread support. And I really think that the governor needs to resign and step aside right now, and I think that will happen."

The Blagojevich scandal also drew comment at the White House from presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino.

"The president believes that it is a very serious situation and the charges are astounding, but that because it is in the middle of an investigation that the U.S. attorney is conducting, we will not have further comment," she said. "The scandal over naming a successor to Mr. Obama to the Senate has drawn attention away from the president-elect's efforts to focus on the economy and assemble his incoming administration.

Mr. Obama announced that former Senator Tom Daschle is his choice to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle is expected to lead the incoming administration's effort to reform the U.S. health care system.

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