Opinion: New Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel testifies, briefly, in new trial of old pal, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich


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This being Chicago, there’s usually a political corruption trial underway, usually involving federal prosecutors and Democratic politicians.

And, oh, look, here’s the retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and there’s his old buddy, the brand-spanking new mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, taking the stand.

First, some background: In the 1980s, Emanuel and Blago were both aspiring young Chicago pols in that inbred political machine when they became friends, the way young athletes come across each other in high school competitions and then in college and then maybe later in the bigs.


Both men made the bigs, by Chicago standards, which means running things in Illinois after some tutorial time in Washington. Emanuel became national finance chair for Bill Clinton and then a White House aide and then a millionaire and then a member of the House.

And Blago, who married the daughter of one of the City Council’s most powerful aldermen, somehow found a job as an assistant county prosecutor and somehow got elected to the state Legislature. Then he ran successfully for the House from the North Side of Chicago.

The men were familiar with the main money people in the city’s politics and, of course, they knew this state Sen. Barack Obama from the South Side. Then Blago decided to run for governor in 2002; more opportunities there and greater clout. And both Emanuel and Obama offered advice and endorsements.

Blago won the Springfield job and, by golly, Rahm then took over the new governor’s old House seat.

He immediately made a name for himself on Capitol Hill as a $%&*#@ tough operator and savvy, successful recruiter of candidates (see 2006 Democratic takeover of the House).

Seeing the possibilities, both Rahm and Blago helped Obama win an Illinois U.S. Senate seat in 2004 and offered advice for his long-obvious run at the White House in 2008. A lot of Chicago politicians have reputations, but Blago’s was focused on fundraising. He was obsessed with it.

Not that anyone in Chicago Democratic circles would tell anyone else how to behave or what to do unless they had the leverage to ensure success. But smart people usually watched what they said in any phone conversations with the governor or his people.


So, Obama wins the 2008 election, names the little North Side rep Emanuel as his chief of staff, Blago gets in trouble with some incriminating federal wire taps over possibly maybe who knows seeming to perhaps put his replacement pick for Obama’s Senate spot up for bids. Which he, of course, has denied on pretty much every conceivable TV and radio talk show.

The first trial produced a hung jury on all but one of dozens of counts. So, here we are again with the big-mouthed Blago threatening to testify and name big names, etc. Today, the defense called Emanuel, freshly sworn into office.

You might not be surprised to learn that under very precisely worded questioning, Emanuel swore today that no one had ever asked him in the calendar year 2006 to ask his Hollywood brother to set up a fundraiser for Blagojevich in exchange for releasing a $2-million grant to a school in Emanuel’s House district.

The new mayor was also asked if anyone had ever requested that he set up a nonprofit organization to hire Blagojevich in exchange for naming to Obama’s vacant seat former Mayor Richard Daley aide Valerie Jarrett, who hired Obama’s wife, Michelle, to work in City Hall and is now a top aide to President Obama, traveling in Europe with the president’s second chief of staff, William Daley, who succeeded Emanuel in the White House and is the brother of Richard Daley, who just retired as mayor and was succeeded by Emanuel.

Emanuel said, ‘No.’

Three minutes and Emanuel was out of there.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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