Durbin and Blagojevich had spoken just once about the vacancy left by President-elect Barack Obama, and even that was freighted with drama. Durbin had called the governor shortly after the election to discuss possible candidates. His office, he said, made five more calls in the span of two days.
Later, Durbin said, Blagojevich aides suggested to the press that Durbin was avoiding a discussion. Eventually the two had a short telephone conversation, 12 days after Durbin's first call., In that talk, as the two discussed as many as 20 potential appointees, Durbin said he had no indication that Blagojevich was attempting to use the appointment to benefit himself, either financially or politically.
But, Durbin said, he felt that the governor was not taking his advice seriously. "I think he did it as a formality," he said.
Have you ever spoken to [ Illinois] Gov. [ Rod R.] Blagojevich about the Senate seat?
I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time. My strong belief is that it needed to be filled by somebody who is going to represent the people of Illinois and fight for them. And beyond that, I was focused on the transition.
And that was before and after the election?
Are you aware of any conversations between Blagojevich or [chief of staff] John Harris and any of your top aides, including Rahm [Emanuel]?
Let me stop you there because . . . it's an ongoing investigation. I think it would be inappropriate for me to, you know, remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know. And that's the fact that I didn't discuss this issue with the governor at all.