President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett have received defense subpoenas to testify at the trial of ex- Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, said a White House official who declined to be named.
Jury selection in the trial of the twice-elected Democrat is scheduled to start tomorrow at the federal court in Chicago. Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 on charges he tried to trade his power to appoint a U.S. senator to replace then-President- elect Obama, for campaign cash or personal favors. The ex- governor has repeatedly said he is innocent of all charges.
A White House official last year anonymously confirmed that Emanuel, who served in the U.S. House representing parts of Chicago from 2003 to 2009, was the alleged target of an extortion plot described as “Congressman A” in an indictment of Blagojevich unsealed in April 2009.
Jarrett, a lawyer who once chaired the University of Chicago medical center board and the Chicago Stock Exchange, has been described by Obama political strategist David Axelrod as a “long-time friend” of the president.
At Obama’s request, she withdrew her name from consideration as his successor in the Senate because the president preferred she serve in the White House, Axelrod told Bloomberg News in December 2008.
The Chicago Tribune previously identified her as one of the unidentified nominees considered by Blagojevich for the Senate as he allegedly evaluated what he could receive in exchange for appointing specific candidates.
Emanuel will likely be called by prosecutors as they try to prove their extortion plot allegations, Blagojevich’s attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said today in a phone interview. If the government doesn’t call Emanuel as a witness, the defense might, Sorosky said.
“There isn’t any magic one sentence that he is going to say to win the case for the government or for us,” Sorosky said.
He declined to say what he hoped to elicit from Jarrett if she is called to testify.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel already rejected a defense request he issue a subpoena for Obama’s testimony. The trial is expected to last at least three months.
The offices of U.S. Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Harry Reid of Nevada have acknowledged receipt of defense subpoenas, as has that of U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Chicago. All are Democrats.
The case is U.S. v. Blagojevich, 08cr888, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).