Federal Courts Reporter
As he dips his toes into the City's Mayoral fray, U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. declared this morning that if government prosecutors have evidence on him tied to Rod Blagojevich: "Bring it on."
Jackson, speaking on WLS-AM 890 "Wade and Roma" show this morning, for the first time publicly responded to an allegation that he was present at a meeting when fund-raisers discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson's appointment.
Jackson said two Indian fund-raisers began speaking in another language at an October 28, 2008 meeting and he didn't know what they were saying.
"I'm not alone at the meeting, it baffled me, you know: 'Jackson sits alone with the Indians,' he said, referring to media coverage after testimony at Blagojevich's trial.
"How about this? Congressman meets with Director of Economic Development and Trade for the State of Illinois...met with him for 30 minutes in the presence of other people and discussed the third airport. Then another gentleman showed up and started having another conversation practically in Hindu, because I don't speak Hindu because I don't speak Hindu ... and I didn't participate in any of that part of the conversation, nor do I even remember hearing it. And I have witnesses present."
One of the witnesses, Rajinder Bedi, testified at Blagojevich's trial that Jackson was sitting with him and another fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, when the $1 million was discussed. Bedi, a government witness, did not say he was speaking in Hindu.
Bedi then testified he paid a visit later that same day to Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert, and passed along a message that the then-governor would receive campaign money if Jackson were appointed.
The allegation was among the most high-profile of the charges against the former governor. Blagojevich was convicted of one count and jurors were deadlocked on 23 others. His retrial is likely to happen in January, when the Mayoral race will be in full swing.
"And let me say it again: And I have witnesses," Jackson said, emphasizing each word. "So whatever happened to the idea that someone is innocent in America until proven guilty? I've gone through 20 months of unprecedented accusations, of unprecedented besmirching of my character."
"I know that may not be enough for some people. But I've kind of endured this for 20 months."
Jackson was also asked about his closed door meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel this week.
He denied that they both agreed not to bring up Blagojevich should they go head to head in battle.
But he didn't waste time throwing the first stone, noting that Emanuel is on government tapes while he is not.
"The prosecution has concluded, I assume, that what I have to say doesn't contribute to their case," Jackson said. "I assume they have no evidence or else they would have brought a charge.
If I'm a conspirator -- bring it on."