WASHINGTON (CNN) – The man with the sole authority to appoint a senator to replace Barack Obama was arrested Tuesday, shaking up the process to fill the president-elect's former Senate seat.
FBI agents took Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich into custody, arresting him on federal corruption charges in part related to the selection of Obama's successor in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald calls the corruption charges "a truly new low," and the news calls into question how Obama's former seat will now be filled.
Blagojevich, like Obama, is a Democrat. He has maintained since last month that his decision will not be made in haste, and he wants “to ensure that Obama’s successor will understand and fight for the needs of average Illinoisans.”
But the clock is ticking on naming of a successor, considering will be sworn in on January 6th.
The big question now is will Blagojevich retain the right to name Obama's successor even if he remains in custody or even under indictment? The answer is yes, according to Fitzgerald.
CNN also reached out to Jay Stewart, executive director of Chicago's Better Government Association. Stewart agrees that Blagojevich retains the right to fill the senate vacancy until he's out of office, which wouldn't happen unless he quits or is removed from office by impeachment.
Click below to see who is in the running to replace Obama
If Blagojevich does resign, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, a fellow Democrat, would take over as Governor. Blagojevich was said to be interested in running for re-election in 2010, and that could factor into his decision, if he makes it, on whom will replace Obama.
The government charges that Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were "conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits" for the Illinois governor by leveraging his power to appoint a senator to replace Obama. Blagojevich has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
In a press conference with reporters Tuesday, Fitzgerald said, "the most cynical behavior, the most appalling, is the fact Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment of the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama. The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."
There is no clear successor to Obama in the wings and more than half a dozen people ranging from state lawmakers to current congressmen have been mentioned or have expressed interest.
Candidates likely being considered for the open Senate seat:
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis
Illinois Dept. of Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.
Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White