Rahm Emanuel expected to testify in Blago trial

May 24, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Blagojevich defense team has turned over its witness list to the government, and while neither side is disclosing who is formally on it, the mayor's office confirmed Tuesday that Emanuel will be a defense witness.

Former Barack Obama chief of staff Emanuel was subpoenaed in the first Blagojevich trial but was never called when the defense rested without calling a witness.

Emanuel figures in two parts of the Blagojevich case, one involving the alleged sale of the Obama Senate seat, and the ex-governor's alleged shakedown of a North Side school. Emanuel is not on any tape played in court, but witnesses have testified regarding the Senate seat that Emanuel merely passed along the president elect's recommendations for a Senate replacement and that the then-incoming Obama administration would be appreciative if Blagojevich were to honor one of those recommendations.

"As I've said before, I'm ready, if asked, to answer questions, as I was in the first trial," Emanuel said Monday.

"The problem when you go on the witness stand when you're in federal court is you're subject to perjury. So he has to be really careful his testimony is fully truthful. And of course politically, he wants to make sure his testimony isn't damaging," said Dick Simpson, UIC political science professor.

The Blagojevich defense team has been coy and cagey regarding who it intends to call. Numerous sources have already said that the ex-governor will himself testify -- at least that is the plan at present.

Although his office has not responded to calls, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is also expected to be called by the defense, according to sources. For Jackson, the political entanglements of an appearance in a public corruption trial are quite tender. One of the government's allegations is that Jackson supporters were prepared to make political contributions to Blagojevich in return for his selection of Jackson to the Senate seat.

Jackson is not charged with anything and has denied any knowledge of attempts by supporters to influence the Senate selection.

How any questioning of a mayor and congressman in the trial of the ex-governor plays out will depend in large part on what the judge will allow. It has everything to do with relevance, and there may be areas the defense wants to pursue that the judge won't allow.

Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.