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Blagojevich trial hangs over Rahm’s campaign

Then U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel Gov. Rod Blagojevich 2003 news conference. FILE PHOTO.  (AP Photo/Stephen J. Carrera)

Then U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Rod Blagojevich at 2003 news conference. FILE PHOTO. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Carrera)

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Updated: May 1, 2011 4:45AM

Rahm Emanuel may have retained his spot on the mayoral ballot, but he’s also kept a spot in another, less desirable place — a federal subpoena.

An attorney for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Emanuel remains under defense subpoena for the upcoming retrial, scheduled for April 20.

“It’s certainly possible we would call Rahm Emanuel as a witness,” Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said.

Sorosky said at the direction of U.S. District Judge James Zagel, all the subpoenas issued in last summer’s first Blagojevich trial would be still valid in the second trial.

Emanuel, who was captured on tape in conversations with Blagojevich and his staff, was not called as a witness in the first trial where Blagojevich was convicted on just one of 24 counts.

But Sorosky said if the government opens the door in this go-around, Emanuel could take the stand.

“We’d have to see just what evidence the government presents,” Sorosky said.

Defense lawyers have said that Emanuel would be of interest to them because they believe he would testify that nothing nefarious took place in his conversations with Blagojevich or his staff in late 2008. Emanuel is not accused of wrongdoing.

While Emanuel was captured on some recordings made in the course of the investigation into Blagojevich, none were played at trial.

In one of those recordings, Emanuel appears to be asking Blagojevich for a favor involving Emanuel’s soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2009. Emanuel, who was working as President Obama’s chief of staff, would not answer questions at the time.

Then an outgoing congressman, Emanuel just days after the presidential election asked then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich on a recorded call whether he would look into temporarily appointing someone to replace him to give that person a leg up in the special election. Emanuel at the time tells Blagojevich he would appreciate it and not forget it, according to sources with knowledge of the conversation.

Blagojevich expressed concern that he could not legally appoint to a congressional post, even temporarily, and Emanuel said he would look into it legally, sources said.

Emanuel suggested then-Cook County Board Commissioner Forrest Claypool and said that Claypool was interested in a cabinet position afterward.

Claypool has said he knew nothing about the conversation.

Asked about the Blagojevich exchange at a recent Editorial Board meeting with the Sun-Times, Emanuel, holding a copy of the original story, pushed it aside and said, “No. Look: the White House has done a report. There has never been any sense of any kind of issues like this.”

On Sunday, through a spokesman, Emanuel again pointed to a report commissioned by then-President elect Barack Obama, which detailed contacts between his staffers and Blagojevich at the time that authorities say the former governor was trying to cut a deal to sell the Senate seat.

“Here’s the bottom line: More than two years ago, the White House Counsel reviewed all contacts between incoming White House staff, Gov. Blagojevich and his representatives and determined that no White House staff engaged in deal-making or anything improper,” said spokesman Ben LaBolt.

The report mentions an exchange with Emanuel and Blagojevich regarding his House seat, but does not indicate that Emanuel asked Blagojevich for a special appointment.

Another mayoral candidate, Gery Chico, had his own Blagojevich issue. The Sun-Times has reported that Chico hosted a fund-raiser for Blagojevich the night before he was arrested. Chico told the Sun-Times he is a Democrat so it is not surprising he would host a fund-raiser for the state’s Democratic governor.

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