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Blagojevich Scandal: Madigan, Quinn Discuss Senate Pick, Governor's Options (VIDEO)

01/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said Sunday that he should appoint a temporary Senator to fill Barack Obama's vacant seat before voters decide a longer-term replacement in a special election.

Quinn floated the idea on NBC Chicago's "City Desk" Sunday morning:

Appearing on NBC's "Meet The Press" with Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Quinn elaborated on the plan:

"I saw a bill on Friday night that would provide for a temporary appointment to the U.S. Senate until we could have a special election," Quinn said. "I am concerned that we always have two senators from Illinois representing us in Washington and I think it's very important that whoever is governor get an opportunity to appoint at least a temporary person until an election could take place."

"As the attorney general I'm the lawyer for the people of the state of Illinois. I will continue to do what is best for the people of the state," she said. "And really after Tuesday morning (when Blagojevich was arrested), my continuing concern about the people is what has taken precedent. My political concerns will follow."

Madigan has said she is exploring running for governor in 2010.

When asked if she would like to be named the next senator, Madigan dodged the question, saying the idea isn't "even on my radar screen."

"I haven't even thought about that," she said, "And I don't plan on thinking about it for probably a while unfortunately."

Watch Madigan And Quinn On "Meet The Press":

Transcript of Madigan and Quinn's "MTP" appearance:

MR. GREGORY: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. We'll talk to the state attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who is asking the courts to declare the governor unfit to serve; and the man who would replace him, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn.

Then, lingering questions for the president-elect. Did anyone in his inner circle have contact with Governor Blagojevich? And will the stain of political corruption in Illinois taint the new Obama administration? Insights and analysis from our political roundtable, Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chuck Todd of NBC News.

Plus, the U.S. economy in critical condition, in recession and getting worse. Jobless claims hit a 26-year high, and the auto bailout stalls in the Senate. What now? Joining us, two key political players: Michigan's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm; and the former Massachusetts governor, 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Plus, three top business voices: former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Walmart president and CEO Lee Scott and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

But first, the political corruption scandal involving Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Joining us, the top two officials in the state, the attorney general, Lisa Madigan, and the lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn.

Welcome to both of you.

MS. LISA MADIGAN (D-IL): Thank you, David.

LT. GOV. PAT QUINN (D-IL): Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Ms. Madigan, I'd like to start with you. We know in the last couple of days that the governor is weighing his legal options. He's speaking to defense lawyers. Do you have any indication at this stage that he's prepared to resign?

MS. MADIGAN: We have heard that there is a possibility that tomorrow he will make an announcement that he will step aside. I don't know if that means he will resign or take another option that's provided under the Illinois constitution where he can voluntarily recognize that there is a serious impediment to his ability to carry out his duties and therefore temporarily remove himself.

MR. GREGORY: Is there an option where he could resign and retain his paycheck, which is something, his financial situation, that he's said, according to the criminal complaint, that he's worried about?

MS. MADIGAN: Yes. I think that second option would potentially allow him to keep his salary. And again, I have heard, as well, that that is one of his main concerns is his financial circumstances right now.

MR. GREGORY: Lieutenant Governor Quinn, do you have any perspective on what he's about to do?

LT. GOV. QUINN: I have no idea. I hope the governor does resign. I think that's best for the people of Illinois as well as for himself and his family. There is this other option that Attorney General Madigan just said, that he can step aside. And he's got to do something because our state is in crisis.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let me turn back to Ms. Madigan. You talked about the various tracks on which this is proceeding now: impeachment, a temporary restraining order, all efforts to get him out of office. This is how you outlined it this week. Let's listen.

(Videotape, Friday)

MS. MADIGAN: The law gives the authority to Illinois Supreme Court to make a determination as to whether or not Governor Blagojevich is able to serve. We think it is very clear that he is incapable of serving.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: "Incapable of serving," Ms. Madigan. Why?

MS. MADIGAN: Well, he's clearly incapable of serving based on the information that was contained in the criminal complaint of Patrick Fitzgerald, obviously, you know, filed on Tuesday. So in addition to the fact that he was allegedly attempting to sell a U.S. Senate seat, gain campaign contributions for signing laws, refusing to provide Medicaid reimbursement to a significant children's hospital here in Chicago, get an editorial writer at the Trib fired, there is also this serious concern that absolutely everything that he does from here on out is going to be tainted. It's going to be...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MS. MADIGAN: ...illegitimate. And so we think it is absolutely obvious that he is incapable of governing...

MR. GREGORY: But...

MS. MADIGAN: ...and for--the best thing to do is to move aside.

MR. GREGORY: Let me press you on this. You talk about the charges that are in the criminal complaint, which, by the way, is not actually an indictment, it's not a formal charge against him. Are you aware of any of the evidence against him beyond what the public is aware of?

MS. MADIGAN: Well, what I can tell you is that our office has been involved in providing assistance and information to federal law enforcement authorities all along.

MR. GREGORY: So you're, you're aware of other evidence beyond what's in that complaint?

MS. MADIGAN: All I can tell you is that our office has provided information assistance to federal law enforcement authorities.

MR. GREGORY: Is it fair, though, as the attorney general of the state of Illinois, to pursue an effort to wrest the governor from office before he's had a chance to confront the charges against him, or to confront the witnesses against him before he's even been formally charged?

MS. MADIGAN: Well, we are not looking to try to convict him criminally with the pleadings that we brought to the Illinois Supreme Court. We're simply recognizing that these are extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances, and that we need to have a governor who can actually use the powers of that office and governor our state, or else our state becomes paralyzed. And that is why we sought this extraordinary remedy of going to the supreme court, and the Illinois State Constitution does provide the Supreme Court a role in this. We would like them very much to at least hear our side of the story.

MR. GREGORY: Let me, before I turn to the lieutenant governor, one, one more question on this about your own political ambition which, in Illinois, is well-known, that in the past you've talked about pursuing the governorship of the state. Your father is the speaker of the General Assembly. You're in the center in all this at some measure. Are you politically conflicted as you pursue this?

MS. MADIGAN: No. As the attorney general, I'm the lawyer for the people of the state of Illinois. I will continue to do what is best for the people of the state. And, really, after Tuesday morning, my continuing concern about the people is what has taken precedent.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MS. MADIGAN: My political concerns will follow.

MR. GREGORY: Would you like to be the senator from Illinois?

MS. MADIGAN: You know, again, at this point, that's not even on my radar screen. We're trying to move the state ahead in these really troubling times.

MR. GREGORY: But if you were offered it, would you take it?

MS. MADIGAN: Again, I haven't even thought about that, and I don't plan on thinking about it for a while, unfortunately.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let me turn to the lieutenant governor Mr. Quinn.

You ran, of course, with Governor Blagojevich back in 2006, and when questions were raised about his ethical behavior back then, this is what you said. "He's always been a person who's honest and one of integrity." At what point did you change your view about him, and who is the governor?

LT. GOV. QUINN: Well, I think after the election of 2006 through 2007 and 2008 things got worse and worse. The governor announced that I was not part of his administration. I did speak out against what's called "pay to play," accepting campaign contributions from contractors of state government. I thought the governor did way too much of that, and it should be abolished. And I also led an effort to establish recall in Illinois where voters would be able, by referendum, to remove the governor or other statewide officials who weren't doing the proper job. So I really feel that our state needs fundamental reform. The only way to get it is for the governor to resign and all of us band together in the best traditions of Abraham Lincoln to get a government of the people.

MR. GREGORY: But, Mr. Quinn, you have to, you have to understand, a lot of people hear about your relationship this week, that you haven't talked to him in a year and wonder what kind...

LT. GOV. QUINN: Well...

MR. GREGORY: ...relationship was this? What kind, what kind of guy is he? What kind of political figure is he?

LT. GOV. QUINN: Well, he's a bit isolated. I tried to talk to the governor, but the last time I spoke to him was in August of 2007. I think one of the problems is the governor did sort of seal himself off from all the statewide officials, so Attorney General Madigan and myself and many others, and that's no way to govern. You have to be able to reach out and touch people and listen...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

LT. GOV. QUINN: ...to their concerns.

MR. GREGORY: So I, I just want to understand this. So do you try to call him or go see him, and then he just doesn't get back to you?

LT. GOV. QUINN: Well, you try and try. But after a while, you know, it's not an easy place to go. You just try and do your own job as best you can. The governor has his style. I think that style hasn't worked for him or anyone else.

MR. GREGORY: Right. All right. Let's talk about the, the prospect of the special election for this Senate seat that the president-elect is vacating. Of course, you were on the "Today" program earlier this week. This is what you said.

(Videotape)

LT. GOV. QUINN: In general, I'm for the voters deciding who the next senator would be or any other public official.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: So are you for a special election?

LT. GOV. QUINN: Well, since I was on the "Today" show, I saw a bill on Friday night that would provide for a temporary appointment to the U.S. Senate until we could have a special election. I am concerned that we always have two Senators from Illinois representing us in Washington, and I think it's very important that whoever is governor get an opportunity to appoint at least a temporary person until an election could take place.

MR. GREGORY: All right. The, the issue here about this potential corruption in the state has raised a lot of eyebrows, obviously, in Illinois, about the question of where did all this come from? Mary Mitchell, who will be on the roundtable in just a moment here, writes this morning in the Chicago Sun-Times what she calls "more of the same."

"The way out of the Senate seat scandal," she writes, "can't be more of the same. With all due respect to Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, he shouldn't be in a position to pick the next Illinois senator. He has served six years with the governor and didn't have a clue as to what was really going on with the Blagojevich administration."

Is that a fair criticism?

LT. GOV. QUINN: No, I don't think it's fair at all. I spoke out. I, I was the leader of the effort to have recall in the Illinois constitution to give voters a chance to remove the governor if they felt that was appropriate. I think that is the best way to go when all is said and done, if he doesn't resign. But I would say this, that Illinois has had great, great U.S. Senators, people like Paul Simon and Paul Douglas and Barack Obama. We also have some bad apples in politics, and we have to oust them and recall and, in this case, resignation is--are the way to go.

MR. GREGORY: Ms. Madigan, let me turn to you one last time. Your views on a special election.

MS. MADIGAN: I think that's the appropriate way to go at this point, obviously, because of the taint that has been brought about by Governor Blagojevich in tempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat, allegedly. That's the best thing for the people of the state is to have a special election, have somebody put in that position legitimately by the people.

MR. GREGORY: As the attorney general, do you have any concerns about the potential involvement of the president-elect or other representatives in terms of contacts with the, the governor or his representatives?

MS. MADIGAN: You know what, I do not know the extent or even the existence of those contacts. It doesn't appear, from what I've heard so far, that there's anything improper that has occurred.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We'll leave it there. Thanks to you both this morning.

MS. MADIGAN: Thank you.

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