The investigation surrounding Gov. Rod Blagojevich is far from over, and it'll likely be a long time before all the questions are answered and the dust settles in the political fallout.
A visibly angry and anguished Patrick Fitzgerald on Tuesday made a public plea for anyone with information in the ongoing corruption investigation surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to come forward and talk.
Calling it a "moment of truth" for the state, the battle-tested prosecutor made no bones about it: the investigation is far from closed, and his office still needs help.
"What we really need is cooperation from people who not in law enforcement; people from outside who heard or saw things or were approached in ways that felt uncomfortable," Fitzgerald said.
Short of that, legal experts say, nothing in the Illinois Constitution or state law can prevent him from exercising the powers of his office, including the appointment of a U.S. senator to replace President-elect Barack Obama.
Impeachment is a complex, highly-structured protocol, so legislators aren't likely to begin proceedings when they convene in Springfield on Monday.
Even then, if and when impeachment proceedings do begin, they wouldn't be completed before the end of the year.
Instead, legislators are more likely to introduce a bill to change how the next senator is chosen, a move that the governor has 60 days to veto.
At any point, Blagojevich could name Obama's replacement, even appointing himself to the post.
“At the end of the day he will be the sitting governor,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald acknowledged at a press conference Tuesday, noting that the governor is “presumed innocent.”
Contenders for the post include:
Valerie Jarrett: A close Obama friend and adviser who is co-chair of his transition office. She said Nov. 12 that she is not interested in the Senate seat.
Jarrett did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis: The Chicago Democrat has said he would be happy to serve if appointed. He spoke with Blagojevich on Nov. 19 about the position and on Nov. 27 the governor said Davis would make a "great U.S. senator."
On Tuesday, Davis said Blagojevich's arrest "certainly hurts the confidence that the people have in government, period." Davis said there was "never, ever any hint of any quid pro quo" when he talked to Blagojevich about Obama's seat and that he would have no problem with there being special election to fill the seat.
Illinois Dept. of Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth: A disabled Iraq war veteran who ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2006, Duckworth has said she would be "honored" to serve in the Senate. Her name also has been mentioned among those who could serve as Veterans Affairs secretary in the Obama administration.
On Tuesday, Duckworth's spokeswoman, Jessica Woodward, said in a Tuesday e-mail "that Director Duckworth has not met or spoken with the Governor about the Senate seat. She is extremely focused on her job working for the state's Veterans. She will continue her mission to improve the lives of Illinois' Veterans and their families. Any questions about the Governor's situation should go to the Governor's office."
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez: The Chicago Democrat spoke with Blagojevich last month about the position but said he would serve only two years if named to Obama's seat, and not seek re-election to another term.
In a Tuesday statement, Gutierrez said he is "deeply troubled and saddened by the news we have learned today about Governor Blagojevich. When I spoke with the Governor in November, he made it clear to me that he would like to appoint someone to the Senate who would run for re-election in 2010, and I made it clear to him that my interest in serving was for only two years, so that I could serve by fighting for immigration reform, not by campaigning for re-election. This limitation ruled me out as a serious contender for the vacant Senate seat. In no way did we ever discuss anything of an inappropriate nature."
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.: Jackson met with Blagojevich this week about the position. Afterward the governor described the Chicago Democrat as a "very strong" candidate.
As to whether he is referenced in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, Jackson said that it would be inappropriate to comment beyond his initial statement because the federal investigation of the governor is ongoing.
"However, I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I won't hesitate to cooperate fully and completely with the federal government's investigation," Jackson said.
Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.: A close Blagojevich ally, Jones has said he is interested in the seat. An aid has said Jones has spoken with Blagojevich about the job.
Jones said in a Tuesday statement that "the events this morning are shocking. The faith of the citizens of Illinois has once again been shaken. I will call the Senate back in to session to pass legislation that would create a special election for the U. S. Senate seat to help restore the confidence of the people of Illinois during this difficult time."
Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan: The daughter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a longtime Blagojevich foe, she last month said the chance was "less than zero" the governor would offer her Obama's former seat. Madigan said she did not think she was even being considered.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky: A spokeswoman for the Evanston, Ill., Democrat said immediately after Obama's election that she is interested in the Senate seat. She spoke with Blagojevich about the position on Nov. 18.