Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

Recently in Rahm Emanuel Category

By Natasha Korecki and Lark Turner

A newly released transcript shows Rahm Emanuel asked Rod Blagojevich in 2008 to try to find a way to appoint Forrest Claypool to his Congressional post after President-Elect Obama had tapped him to go to the White House.

In the Nov. 8, 2008 call, Emanuel tells Blagojevich in the recorded phone call that he wants Forrest Claypool tapped to fill his position after explaining: "in my interest of, uh, you know, having somebody there you know that doesn't want to make it a lifetime commitment."

At the time, Emanuel was leaving to be White House chief of staff but he was interested in returning to his House seat to possibly rise to Speaker.

Emanuel says that Claypool would only stay in Congress for a couple of years.

"And then he wants to go to the cabinet," Emanuel says on the recorded phone call that was made public this afternoon in a defense filing.

Blagojevich repeatedly tells Emanuel he can't appoint to the post. It's got to be a special election. But Emanuel presses him.

"You would appoint somebody to finish those three weeks," Emanuel says, if he were to leave his position early. "And then he, and then he gets, you know, all we are giving him is three weeks of a head start... it's not like Forest doesn't have a name or anything like that. It gives him a head start and a presumption."

At the end of the excerpt of the call, Emanuel tells Blagojevich: "I will not forget this...
"I appreciate it. That's all I am going to say. I don't want to go, you and I shouldn't go farther."

This precise contents of the call have never been made public before today.
However, the Chicago Sun-Times first reported news of the call in 2009 and, at the time, Emanuel would not comment. Claypool at the time told the Sun-Times he knew nothing of such a request.

Emanuel, now Chicago Mayor, has tapped Claypool to head the CTA.

The call was not played in court today, after prosecutors objected. However, the discussion did come up and Blagojevich said after the conversation, he asked his gubernatorial counsel Bill Quinlan if it were constitutional.

Blagojevich was told he could not appoint to Congress -- even if it were temporary, as Emanuel had asked. An opening requires a special election.

Emanuel refused to answer questions today when asked about asking Blagojevich to make a temporary appointment to his old Congressional seat.

Emanuel again said it took him longer to get to the courthouse and back than it did to testify at the Blagojevich trial and that he's done answering questions about it.

Click here for the transcript


Dave McKinney and Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich began the afternoon Tuesday trying to rebut his tape-recorded words that he was prepared to bestow "a favor worth doing" by following Rahm Emanuel's constitutionally flawed advice to appoint a temporary successor to his vacant congressional seat.

Facing a gentler round of questioning from his lawyer following this morning's close of cross-examination, Blagojevich said he actually never intended to follow through and fill Emanuel's seat, as Chicago's new mayor wanted.
"I did not have the constitutional authority to do what Rep. Emanuel wanted me to do,"
Blagojevich told defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

Blagojevich acknowledged having a Nov. 8, 2008 conversation with Emanuel in which Emanuel floated the idea of the governor naming a successor to the vacant congressional seat after he became President Obama's chief of staff.

The governor admitted telling Emanuel, "I'm happy to appoint your guy. If I can do it, I'll do it."

But after that conversation, Blagojevich said he ran the idea past his lawyer then, William Quinlan, and political consultant Fred Yang. Both warned Blagojevich it could not be done under the Constitution, which requires a special election be held.
"I was telling Fred about what Congressman Emanuel was asking me to do. Fred was intrigued Congressman Emanuel was asking me to break the Constitution," Blagojevich testified. "It was his understanding I didn't have the constitutional authority to do it."

Goldstein asked Blagojevich whether he ever appointed anyone to the open 5th Congressional District seat or whether a special election was set. Prosecutors blocked Blagojevich from answering either question.

After testifying that no one ever asked him for anything in exchange for his request to get Valerie Jarrett appointed senator, Emanuel was dismissed as a witness. Prosecutors asked no questions.

Emanuel talks Chicago Academy at Blagojevich trial

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel if his job title of "Mayor of Chicago" was recent.

"Unless your subscription to the newspapers ended recently, yes," Emanuel said to laughter.

Emanuel was asked if anyone ever told himself or his brother to host a fundraiser in exchange for the governor handing over promised grant funds to a school in Emanuel's district. Prosecutors allege that Blagojevich held up the grant to the Chicago Academy intentionally to get Emanuel's brother to raise funds.

"No," Emanuel said.

(Bit more color from Jackson testimony: Jackson sported an angry, vengeful look when he repeatedly snapped his fingers, mocking Rod Blagojevich's Elvis routine.

Blagojevich flushed, shaking his head, looking amazed. He smiled slightly, shaking his head. He looks uncomfortable, shifting in his chair, mouth agape.)

By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

Judge James Zagel has ruled that both Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel may testify today, though he warned Blagojevich's attorneys not to elicit inadmissible testimony.

Rod Blagojevich walked into Zagel's courtroom at about 9:45 a.m. He walked over and to a staffer for Jackson, smiled and shook hands.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also "on-call" and prepared to testify.

Jackson "will testify that he never offered or directed anyone to offer any campaign contributions in exchange for the senate seat," Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein said.

Jackson will testify that the two met, Jackson told Blagojevich why he would make a good senator, the two apologized for having a "bad relationship" with each other, Goldstein said.

"Fund-raising was never brought up, never offered, no offers of 'quid pro quos,' " Goldstein said.

Emanuel will testify he was never made aware of any alleged attempt by Blagojevich to get Emanuel or his brother to hold a fund-raiser in exchange for releasing funds for a high school football field, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said.

Emanuel likewise will testify he was not aware of any request he set up a non-profit group for rich people to fund for a Blagojevich job, Sorosky said.

Emanuel will testify that he held a meeting with Sen. Dick Durbin and David Axelrod about brokering a peace deal between Blagojevich and House Speaker Mike Madigan to pave the way for Blagojevich to appoint Madigan's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, as senator, Sorosky said.

By Natasha Korecki

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. are expected to be called as witnesses as Rod Blagojevich launches his defense case Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Sources said Tuesday that the most recent game plan was to call the two sitting politicians -- both of whom were contacted by the defense team late last week about testifying this week.

The two remained under defense subpoena since the ex-governor's first trial last summer.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in April, Blagojevich said "in all likelihood" his attorneys would call Emanuel and Jackson to testify.

Blagojevich wants to explore discussions Emanuel had regarding a potential deal to name Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the U.S. Senate seat. He also expects both Jackson and Emanuel would deny there were any illicit discussions involving allegations that Blagojevich tried selling President Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Emanuel, who was President-elect Obama's incoming chief of staff when Blagojevich was allegedly looking to sell Obama's Senate seat, said Monday he was prepared to testify.

"I'm ready, if asked, to answer questions, as I was in the first trial," he said.

Blagojevich's defense never called any witnesses during the first trial, which ended with Blagojevich being convicted of lying to the FBI, the least severe count lodged against him. The jury deadlocked on the 23 other counts, leading to the current re-trial.

Sources said Tuesday that Blagojevich was preparing to take the stand after other witnesses. Lawyers and the judge must still hash out which recordings would be played during Blagojevich's testimony.

Lawyers are expected to discuss that in a Wednesday afternoon court hearing.


Updating his wife on the latest happenings involving the Senate seat appointment and seemingly out of sorts, Rod Blagojevich on tape says Valerie Jarrett had pulled out of contention. Rahm Emanuel, who previously said he wanted Jarrett, subsequently called John Harris with a new list of potential candidates.

Blagojevich called it a "politically-correct list to cover his a--." He talks about how Emanuel had previously been high on a Jarrett appointment.

"Rahm was pushing her more than others because he wanted to get her out of the White House," the ex-gov tells his wife, Patti Blagojevich.

That CYA list included Tammy Duckworth, Dan Hynes, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Jan Schakowsky, according to the recorded phone calls played in court.

"So what's your next move?" Patti Blagojevich asks her husband.

The conversation circles back to the then-Gov. discussing appointing himself for U.S. Senate. That's a move Blagojevich said at a news conference that he would not make. He repeatedly said publicly that he would do what was best for the citizens of Illinois.

On tape, the conversation goes another way.

"It opens up opportunities for you that we don't have now," Blagjoevich is heard saying. "Financially for us. I'm gonna get working on that now."

Patti: Yeah. I don't know.
Rod Blagojevich: What's best for us - first and foremost. On the legal front, on the personal front and political front. In that order."
Patti: "Right."
Rod: "Right?"
Patti: "Right."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In the same phone call where John Harris tells Blagojevich that Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett appointed to the seat (a desire relayed to Harris through Rahm Emanuel, Harris says), Blagojevich asks Harris what appointment he might get in the President-elect's cabinet.

"What other cabinet position would be not stupid?" Blagojevich asks Harris, throwing out the possibility of being appointed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Harris tells him it's unlikely.

"Ridiculous?" Blagojevich asks. "S---, that'd be cool."

On the call, the two men laugh. In court today, Blagojevich smiles with his head down.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Government witness John Harris has gotten to the Senate seat charges, and just described two meetings with the then-governor, himself and the governor's legal adviser Bill Quinlan where Harris says Quinlan told Blagojevich he could not look for something for himself in exchange for the seat.

"You can't talk about this, you can't even joke about this," Harris said Quinlan told Blagojevich in late October 2008. "He could not talk about the two in the same sentence."

Quinlan's warning to Blagojevich is significant. His lawyer told him not to try and exchange the Senate seat for personal benefits. Blagojevich has long claimed he did not realize he was doing anything wrong or improper and that he acted with the knowledge of his advisers.

The prosecution also showed the jury an internal document Harris wrote with talking points and a plan for appointing a replacement should then-senator Barack Obama be elected president.

The document advised Blagojevich to appoint a team to help choose candidates for Senate.

"I will not turn this into a public spectacle," Harris advised Blagojevich to say in the document.

Harris said the document was only ever used for public talking points.

He's also described a conversation with then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel prior to Obama's election regarding a possible candidate for Senate.

"He told me that Senator Obama had a preferred candidate," Harris testified. " I understood [him] to be referring to Valerie Jarrett."

The prosecution is now playing a phone call where Harris relays to Blagojevich what Emanuel told him. He tells Blagojevich that Obama wants Jarrett appointed to the seat.

Written by Lark Turner

As it prepares for Rod Blagojevich's impending retrial, the government is looking to spare jurors from hearing superfluous exchanges caught on tape -- including a conversation between the former governor and his brother regarding their signature locks.
The defense has objected to omitting the call, where Robert Blagojevich references a donor's wife.
"She loves our hair, by the way," Rob tells his brother, according to the transcript. "Loves your hair and loves my hair and because it's all real."
The two go on to discuss travel over Christmas and upcoming fundraisers.
Prosecutors proposed tossing out sections from three other calls -- including one involving President Obama. In a call between Blagojevich and lobbyist and consultant Doug Scofield, Blagojevich complains about the position he is in following Obama's victory in 2008, calling Obama a "demi-god." The defense though wants jurors to hear that section.
In another call, prosecutors moved to block out a discussion of Blagojevich's possible impeachment on a conference call and what positions Blagojevich could ask Obama to appoint him to in exchange for naming Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.
The final redaction objected to by the defense deals with a discussion of Rahm Emanuel's appointment as Obama's Chief of Staff and what will become of his congressional seat.


U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald personally called Rahm Emanuel, but it wasn't exactly a congratulatory dial-up.

Fitzgerald called Emanuel the morning Rod Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 to let him know his name would likely come up in the complaint filed against Blagojevich. Emanuel then had just been tapped to be chief of staff at the White House. Discussion about the phone call came up in federal court Wednesday as defense lawyers sought a copy of the call.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said the call was routine and was not recorded.

"Members of the U.S. attorney's office called a series of people to let them know an arrest had been made," Schar said.

Emanuel was not accused of wrongdoing.

axelrod2.jpg


Political strategist and Rahm Emanuel longtime friend David Axelrod was making the rounds at Emanuel's election headquarters after last night's mayoral victory.
When asked if Emanuel could take the stand in Blagojevich's case, Axelrod shrugged it off.
"I really don't know. Whatever happens happens. But I have every confidence that it won't amount to much," Axelrod said.
Attorneys for Blagojevich have said that mayor-elect Emanuel remains under defense subpoena for the April 20 retrial.
Whether they'll actually call him as a witness, however, remains unclear.
As recently as today, defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said they don't know if they will call Emanuel to the stand.

Emanuel was the subject of an alleged extortion by Blagojevich when Emanuel was a congressman. Emanuel was also captured on recordings discussing potential senate candidates and other issues with Blagojevich and his staff in late 2008. None of those recordings were played at trial. Emanuel was not accused of wrongdoing (something Blago's lawyer, Shelly Sorosky took great pains to reiterate at a news conference today).

Emanuel has been the subject of recent defense filings, including the case of the so-called "missing tape" involving an Emanuel call with Blagojevich top aide John Harris the day before the former governor's arrest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said any suggestion that prosecutors didn't turn over a tape was "a ridiculous allegation."
"There isn't a missing phone call," Schar said.


Rahm responds to "missing" Blagojevich tape

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

By Fran Spielman and Natasha Korecki

Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel addressed the subject of the "missing" tape with some of the same language he has used for months to describe his conversations with Rod Blagojevich.

He hearkened back to a two-year-old report by then-President-elect Obama's transition team that concluded there were "about four" conversations between Emanuel and Blagojevich Chief-of-Staff John Harris, but "nothing inappropriate or any deal-making."

"It also noted that I was asked at the time by the President's transition (team) to provide a list of four names for the U.S. Senate: Tammy Duckworth, Jan Schakowsky, Dan Hynes and Congressman Jesse Jackson [Jr.]," Emanuel recalled, noting that there was a separate conversation about Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Trial testimony indicated that Blagojevich and his team considered this list a "BS list."

"I provided that list. Then, there was a question -- The governor's representative said, `What's in it for us.' And I responded, `You'll get thanks and appreciation‚ [but nothing more]. You also know how the [former] governor responded to the word, `appreciation.' That's been detailed over two years ago in the report."

Testimony at Rod Blagojevich's trial indicated that it was in fact lobbyist John Wyma who passed on that message to the Blagojevich team in early November, 2008 at Emanuel's request. Wyma at that point had been cooperating with the feds in their probe against the former governor and provided the government with the necessary information to put up wiretaps against Blagojevich.

Emanuel sloughed off the suggestion that the Blagojevich filing might be politically timed to embarrass him less than two weeks before the mayoral election.

When a television reporter noted that the filing goes out of its way to say that Emanuel did nothing wrong, the candidate laughed and said, "I look forward to your coverage tonight."


Two weeks before the Chicago Mayoral election, Rod Blagojevich's lawyers are claiming that there's a missing phone call involving Rahm Emanuel that would help bolster their contention that the former governor was trying to broker a legitimate deal for the U.S. Senate seat.
They say Rahm Emanuel and Blagojevich's then-chief of staff John Harris had a telephone conversation that, if played, would help demonstrate his argument that he was trying to broker a deal to appoint Lisa Madigan.
Blagojevich has contended he wanted Emanuel to be the go-between on the deal.
"The governor's political strategy to enlist the help of Rahm Emanuel was unfolding as the missing ... Dec. 8 call would show," lawyers write in the motion.
They say the call was made the day before Blagojevich's Dec. 9, 2008 arrest and was not turned over to the defense during the first trial.
Trial testimony indicated that two of Harris' phones were tapped but there was at least one other line that was not tapped.
Blagojevich's motion refers to this phone call as "critical to Blagojevich's defense."
They ask for a hearing to discuss the tapes.
"Blagojevich makes absolutely no assertion that Rahm Emanuel was ever involved in or aware of any wrongdoing, criminal or otherwise," attorneys write in the motion.
Blagojevich is up for retrial April 20 after his case ended up in a mistrial on all but one count last summer. The jury was hung on the most explosive allegations, that the former governor schemed to sell President Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. Despite hundreds of recorded conversations that were played, jurors complained of a lack of smoking gun evidence.
The U.S. Attorney's office had no comment. A spokesman for Emanuel could not be reached immediately.


While he was President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel wouldn't answer questions about why he asked Rod Blagojevich to appoint someone to his outgoing congressional seat.

rahm.jpeg

Now that he's running for mayor, questions still linger about that 2008 conversation, which was recorded.

Read today's story in the Chicago Sun-Times: Blagojevich trial hangs over Rahm campaign

Reporting with Natasha Korecki


When Valerie Jarrett was still in contention for the Senate seat in early November 2008, Rahm Emanuel called longtime Rod Blagojevich friend John Wyma.

Emanuel wanted Wyma to deliver a message to Blagojevich.

Wyma, a state lobbyist, just testified that Emanuel told him to call Blagojevich and express something on behalf of the President-Elect.

"He said the President-Elect would value and appreciate Valerie Jarrett in the Senate seat," Wyma said.

Wyma said he then tried to call Blagojevich at home but "missed him."
He then called Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris.

Wyma said he passed on Emanuel's message.
"I told him it would make sense to have Valerie as a pick," Wyma said.

Harris told him he would give the message "unabridged and unedited" to the then-governor.

The significance here is Wyma had been cooperating with the government for several weeks. He made a call on Emanuel's behalf at the time that the then-Governor was hoping to get something in return for the Senate seat. The week before that phone call, Blagojevich had expressed his interest in a cabinet position in exchange for the Senate seat.

While the prosecution played a recording of Robert Blagojevich's call to Wyma asking for funds from Children's Memorial Hospital, Wyma admitted to attorney Michael Ettinger that he didn't know whether Robert Blagojevich also knew that the hospital was at the same time seeking state monies.

Now Blagojevich's lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky is questioning Wyma: "You don't mind if I call you John, do you?

Wyma: "Do you mind if I call you Shelly?" He says to much laughter in the courtroom.

Sorosky: "Not at all."


Onetime Rod Blagojevich campaign communications chief Doug Scofield just testified that he relayed a message to John Wyma about the U.S. Senate seat.

Scofield said he told Wyma that Blagojevich was making a request of the Obama camp that was "ridiculous even by our standards."

Scofield and Blagojevich didn't know it, but Wyma had been working with FBI agents at that point, who were in charge of the ongoing probe into Blagojevich.

Wyma's cooperation served as the probable cause basis for the feds to set up a series of wiretaps.

And so, on Nov. 13, 2008, this is the person Blagojevich wants to deliver a message to Rahm Emanuel, who had just been named President-Elect Obama's chief of staff.

Scofield said he called Wyma to deliver the message that Blagojevich wanted a foundation set up for him in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

"I said John, every now and then we get asked to do something that is ridiculous even by our standards," Scofield testified. "But I've been asked to pass this along, so I'm passing this along."

Blagojevich's defense lawyers objected twice to the "ridiculous" remark.
"If the goal of your objection was to stop his answer, you've succeeded," Judge James Zagel said.

Scofield went on about the conversation: "I said, Rod is really around the bend on this Senate stuff, so here's what he said to me and I'll pass it on to you," Scofield testified.

Prosecutor Reid Schar asked: "Did Mr. Wyma express any concerns about the message?"

"He seemed slightly confused about it," Scofield said. "He wanted to clarify that it was related to the Senate seat ... which I had said within the first five seconds of picking up the phone."

"We (Scofield and Wyma) talked about this idea of funders (for the foundation Blagojevich wanted), which we both found a little implausible," Scofield testified.

Scofield then said he was under the impression that Wyma would not pass it along to Emanuel. He didn't hear from Wyma again.

When Scofield talked to Blagojevich again though, he said he lied and said Wyma would do it -- because that was an easier message to convey to the ex-governor.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Prosecutors play their first secret recording of the day and it's John Harris relaying what Rahm Emanuel told him in a call the day before. He's talking to Rod Blagojevich about Emanuel conveying Barack Obama's interest in having Valerie Jarrett appointed to the senate seat.

"Should I have Barack call Rod?" Harris said Rahm asked him.

Harris said it would help, and he's heard laughing.

Harris: "You may get a call from him or Dave."

Blagojevich: "Dave who?"

Harris: "Axelrod."

Harris says he believes Obama to be serious about the appointment.

"(Obama) wouldn't leave it to osmosis or the media. He very much cares about this. It's his definite desire for Valerie," Harris says.

Blagojevich sounds almost gleeful at the thought.

At another point in the recording, Rod and Harris are heard questioning who it was that Obama wanted to see appointed -- because Emanuel did not specify in his call, they wondered if it might be a recent political favorite in Illinois, Tammy Duckworth.

Harris said it was clear Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett and not Duckworth. Rod's ears seemed to perk up.

Rod: "We should get something for that, could I? What about Health and Human Services, can I get that?"

Harris testifies that's a reference to a cabinet appointment.

Rod: "What could I honestly think I might get a shot at getting?"

Harris: "Well, besides good thing for Illinois, good thing for Illinois?"

In court, Harris said what's made clear in that conversation: "that he was seeking something for himself as well.

Back on the tape, Rod wonders what other positions may be available to him:

"I mean, what other cabinet position would be not stupid?" Rod is heard asking. "UN Ambassador?"

"Yeah, I don't think that's realistic or serious," Harris replies.

"S---, that would be cool, huh?" Blago says, laughing.

In court, Patti smiles as she listens.

The pair are also heard discussing other alternatives for the seat -- including Bill Daley, former U.S. commerce secretary and brother of Mayor Richard Daley, and Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan.

However, Harris testified, those were basically decoys, not serious alternatives.

Harris and Rod are heard discussing leaking a potential Lisa Madigan appointment to Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed.

John Harris explains from the stand: "Michael Sneed is a woman who writes a political gossip column for a local paper -- a page that a lot of politicians read before the sports."

Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton asked, then, if Harris and Rod were talking about leaking "false information" to Sneed.

"Yes," Harris testified.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Two days before the 2008 presidential election, Rahm Emanuel called John Harris to pass on the soon-to-be president-elect's request that Valerie Jarrett be appointed to his senate seat, Harris has testified.

Harris was shopping with his kids at a Payless shoe store on Nov. 2, 2008 when he got Emanuel's call.

Emanuel told Harris that then-Sen. Barack Obama was interested in seeing a "close friend" of his appointed to his seat, Harris testified.

Harris said he understood that friend to be Valerie Jarrett, a longtime Chicago public official and close friend and fund-raiser for Obama.

"(Emanuel) asked whether it would be helpful if Sen. Obama called the governor to advocate for this individual," Harris testified. "I said sure."

"He said, 'I'll let you know," Harris testified, but for the moment, "He wanted to say that the senator had a preference."

Blagojevich trial: Day 12 -- tapes today -- and recap

| 4 Comments | No TrackBacks

Rodandpatti

On Monday: the prosecution lodged an attack on Rod Blagojevich through three different witnesses as it plows through its case at a rapid clip.

1. Bradley Tusk: testified while he was deputy governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich told him to deliver a message to then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel: He'd only get a $2 million grant for a school in his district if his Hollywood agent brother Ari Emanuel (the inspiration for Ari Gold on "Entourage") held a fund-raiser. Tusk testified that Gov. Blagojevich wasn't "engaged" and tough to find.
He said he had to hunt him down at his tailor and his daughter's salon to sign bills.
Otherwise, Tusk, today 36, was often tasked with signing bills.
Good for Blagojevich: Tusk said he thought the Emanuel request was illegal, but didn't quit his job and never reported it to law enforcement.

2. John Johnston: racetrack executive says as he awaited the governor's signature on a bill, he was shaken down for a campaign contribution by Lon Monk, Johnston's "conduit" to Rod Blagojevich.
Good for Blagojevich: Johnston says Blagojevich never asked him for cash and admits that Monk could be lying.

3. John Harris: says Blagojevich told him to cut off two brokerage firms from state business after each failed to hire his wife, Patti.
Good for Blagojevich: Harris never carried out his alleged order.

A congratulations to Sam Adam, who joins four other defense team members in receiving a thumping by U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

Up today: Former chief of staff John Harris is back on the stand where he'll likely remain until next week. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton says she'll bring in a series of secretly recorded conversations through Harris.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Former Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk has testified that he didn't quit or notify any law enforcement agency after hearing of Blagojevich's alleged attempted shakedown of Rahm Emanuel.

Earlier in his cross-examination, Sorosky went down a line of questioning asking Tusk if the state was "bombarded" by requests like the Chicago Academy's -- seemingly to prove that the delay was a regular backlog, not the cause of any wrongdoing. Prosecutor Reid Schar objected.

Zagel sustained, telling Sorosky that he was confusing a delay in grant requests for a delay in paying out grants that had already been approved.

"If you want to ask him about refusals for grants that had already been granted, then that would have some relevance," Zagel said, assuming his coaching role.

It's getting to the point where Schar doesn't even speak to object -- he just stands up.

"Objection sustained," Judge Zagel continues, time after time.

As his lawyer cross examines Tusk, Rod at one point looks away and takes a deep breath.

from the Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- President Barack Obama's chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press.

Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel's own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district.

The 2006 discussion with Blagojevich's top aide, Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, doesn't appear to cross legal lines, and Emanuel couldn't speed up the distribution of the funds.

But it offers a peek at ties between two high-profile Illinois politicians -- one now the president's right-hand man, the other facing years in prison if convicted of political corruption.

Discussion of the exchange could come up at Blagojevich's corruption trial, currently under way in Chicago. Blagojevich, who is accused of plotting to profit by selling an appointment to Obama's former Senate seat, also tried later that year to use the school grant in an extortion attempt against Emanuel, according to federal prosecutors.

Authorities say he ordered Tusk, who told the AP he is scheduled to testify in the case Monday and couldn't comment, to get Emanuel to compel his Hollywood agent brother to host a political fundraiser before the grant was paid.

White House spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.

The favor unfolded in January 2006, according to e-mail exchanges released under the Freedom of Information Act. Blagojevich was 10 weeks away from a Democratic primary challenge in his quest for a second term and a federal investigation into his administration's hiring practices was well known.

The Tribune ripped him for claiming he was too busy governing to campaign for the primary, while plastering his name on taxpayer-financed projects such as the new automatic-pay toll highway system and a health care plan for children.

"Why be a chump on the stump when you can make taxpayers campaign for you?" the newspaper chafed.

Tusk, currently a consultant to the Republican candidate for New York state attorney general, tapped Emanuel, who had remained friendly after winning Blagojevich's former seat in the U.S. House in 2002.

Tusk wanted someone defending the governor for merely publicizing his own good programs, according to the e-mail exchange. A proposed 180-word letter to the editor followed.

"Would you be willing to send something like this to the Trib in response to today's editorial?" Tusk wrote Emanuel on Jan. 11, 2006.

Emanuel agreed. Later that day, the congressman's chief of staff suggested that someone contact the state employee overseeing the grant that Emanuel wanted released to the Chicago Academy, a teacher-preparatory school in Emanuel's district which wanted to build athletic fields. The grant, promised months earlier, still hadn't been paid.

On Jan. 16, 2006, a modified letter appeared in the Tribune over Emanuel's name. Despite the "packaging" of Blagojevich's programs, it said, "It's wrong to suggest it's the triumph of form over content. Look inside those packages, and you'll find real and lasting progress for the people of Illinois."

The money, however, didn't follow as quickly, and Emanuel appeared agitated.

"What the hell is holding up the school funding? This is a real problem for me now," Emanuel wrote on Aug. 28 when a contractor on the school project stopped work. "I am getting killed."

When Tusk repeatedly promised to call, Emanuel responded, "Just e-mail and tell me first will this happen in my lifetime. Second if yes then when. Real simple."

Phone records show Emanuel called Blagojevich on four successive days in late summer 2006. One message indicated the subject was the school. Repeated phone calls between Emanuel's and Blagojevich's staff followed the next week.

Shortly thereafter, the money started flowing, and the $2 million was paid by December. There was never a fundraiser.

Attorney: Emanuel would say Blagojevich is innocent

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

As dozens of reporters still await the former governor's arrival this morning, we've so far only heard from one of his lawyers.

Shelly Sorosky said the defense wants Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett to take the stand because they'll say Rod Blagojevich didn't do anything wrong.

"We are certainly looking forward to their testimony," Sorosky said. "I think (Emanuel) will perhaps relay the governor didn't do anything wrong or criminally wrong."

Rod and Rob Blagojevich are expected to arrive just before the 11 a.m. start time on jury selection.

The U.S. Marshals used yellow tape to cordon off an area for Blagojevich to walk into the federal building and presumably to keep us in the media from trampling one another.

It looks like crime scene tape.

Not exactly a red carpet.

There are some people from the public, holding cell phones and awaiting his arrival. One is shouting something nonsensical about Donald Trump's building. Another is carrying a home-made sign, white poster board with black writing.

"If a man can't talk crap in his own home, then take my husband please!"

Another woman is holding a sign: "Rod's not cuckoo, Rod's not guilty."

Rahm Emanuel.jpg

Reporting with Lynn Sweet

President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was subpoenaed by the defense to testify in Rod Blagojevich's upcoming trial, a Blagojevich attorney told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Yes, he's been subpoenaed by the defense," one of Rod Blagojevich's lawyers, Shelly Sorosky said today.

Valerie Jarrett was also subpoenaed, according to the White House, which also confirmed Emanuel's subpoena after the Sun-Times reported the news.

Rod Blagojevich's trial begins tomorrow.

Sorosky described Emanuel as a "critical" witness because: "he's the supposed victim of an extortion." One of the charges against Blagojevich accuses him of attempting to extort Emanuel while he was a congressman.

Sorosky said there are two areas of interest involving Emanuel: the alleged attempted extortion of Emanuel by then-Gov. Blagojevich and the U.S. senate seat selection concerning now-White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Jarrett was initially interested in the Senate seat post after Obama was elected president in 2008 and Emanuel had some discussions with both Blagojevich and his staff about the open seat.

Blagojevich had the sole power to appoint a replacement to Obama's vacant seat. He's charged with trying to extract a personal benefit from his potential nominees in exchange for an appointment.

The defense in Blagojevich's case has already subpoenaed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. -- all are Democrats.

Sorosky acknowledged that Emanuel, and many others who have been subject of subpoenas, might not actually be called to testify.

"We served a lot of these people just in case they were needed," Sorosky said.
"We don't know if we're going to call them or not. It depends on what happens at trial."

Contributing: Sarah Ostman

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Rahm Emanuel category.

Patti Blagojevich is the previous category.

Robert Blagojevich is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.