UPDATED - U.S. Attorney - 'Lincoln would turn over in his grave'

Staff reports
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich,was taken into custody this morning by federal agents at his suburban Chicago home.

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, just moments ago, at a press conference said, the "breadth of corruption is staggering."

The charges include: conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a U.S. senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich; and to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions – both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

During the press conference Robert Grant, FBI special agent in charge, said if Illinois is not the most corrupt state in the nation, "it is one hell of a competitor."

Grant added the hope the message that corruption would not tolerated sent by the conviction of former Ill. Gov. George Ryan had not been received by the current administration.

Fitzgerald said that Blagojevich, according to wiretaps, said the vacated seat of President-elect Barack O'bama was "gold," and that he "would not give it away."

"The conduct would make Lincoln turn over in his grave," Fitzgerald said.

Blagojevich and Harris were charged in a two-count criminal complaint sworn out on Sunday and unsealed today following their arrests, which occurred without incident, Both men were expected to appear later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Fitzgerald said the investigation is on-going, adding that a number of people have volunteered to come forward and tell what they know.

"There's an awful lot we don't know, and need to know," Fitzgerald said.

A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by

President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife.

Federal agents today also executed search warrants at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich located at 4147 North Ravenswood, Suite 300, and at the Thompson Center.