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Rahm ready to testify at Blago trial if called

Updated: June 25, 2011 12:23AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel changed his tune Monday when asked about the possibility of being called by the defense to testify in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Asked last week whether he had been contacted by the Blagojevich defense team about testifying, Emanuel said, “Not to my knowledge.”

On Monday, the new mayor’s answer was a different one. It was almost as if he was preparing reporters for his appearance in federal court.

“As you know — as I’ve said before — I’m ready, if asked, to answer questions, as I was in the first trial. . . . In this trial, I’ll answer questions, if asked to,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel has remained under defense subpoena since last summer’s trial, which ended in a mistrial on 23 out of 24 counts. Emanuel’s name has resurfaced as a possible witness now that it appears that Blagojevich will be putting on a defense, unlike his first trial.

The former governor’s defense team is expected to begin presenting its case Wednesday.

Blagojevich’s lawyer said Monday that Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. are “under consideration” to be called as witnesses in the defense case. Attorney Sheldon Sorosky didn’t mention anyone else by name. He made the remarks on his way out of the courthouse Monday.

Last week, Sorosky would only say people of “some prominence” were under consideration. He also said last week that

Blagojevich’s own testimony remained in play.

Emanuel’s conversations with Rod Blagojevich about filling the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama were captured on federal wiretaps. But Emanuel has repeatedly insisted that all he ever offered to Blagojevich was “thanks and appreciation.”

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times before he officially entered the mayor’s race, Emanuel was asked to describe his dealings with Blagojevich — about the Senate seat and the North Side school then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel wanted to build.

“I provided a list of four credible candidates that the President said could be potential U.S. Senate candidates. . . . When asked, what’s in it for the governor, I’m the one [who] said, ‘All you’re gonna get is thanks and appreciation.’ Then, you also know how the governor then responded to that,” Emanuel said then.

Pressed on why he was wheeling and dealing about potential Senate candidates, Emanuel said, “That’s a characterization. They’re prosecuting the governor, correct? Am I [being prosecuted]?”

When it came to negotiations about the school, Emanuel portrayed himself as a victim.

“I was fighting to get a new high school established — the Chicago Teaching Academy, the first of its kind in the country. . . . I made a pledge and I had secured the resources. . . . The funds weren’t forthcoming and I kept pushing,” he said then.

“They tried to hold those resources until I helped them with fundraising, which I did not do. Any attempt to extract or get something for them…was also summarily rejected. I rejected both times any overture.”

Asked whether being on tape or on the witness stand would prove to be embarrassing, Emanuel said, “No. The facts will speak for themselves. Both times, any overture was rejected. … That’s why I have no problem. The public will see those facts.”

Earlier this month, former Blagojevich aide-turned-government-informant John Wyma testified that Emanuel called him after being chosen to serve as White House chief-of-staff to relay Obama’s support for presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett as Obama’s Senate replacement.

Wyma also testified about Blagojevich’s alleged attempts to force then-Congressman Emanuel to hold a fund-raiser, or have Emanuel’s wealthy Hollywood agent brother, Ari, hold one, in exchange for releasing state funds to the school in Emanuel’s district. Wyma said Blagojevich’s request made him so uncomfortable he didn’t do it.

Until he did.

“At some point did you make a request of Mr. Emanuel for a fund-raiser?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton asked.

“I did,” Wyma said. “Months later ... Because the grant issue had been resolved.”

Blagojevich eventually relented, according to testimony, and released the money to the school.

“I felt it was wrong to ask him for money while aid was being, kind of, dangled,” Wyma said.

Contributing: Lark Turner

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