- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys launched his defense Wednesday in his corruption retrial, summoning Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to testify briefly that they did not know of any arranged deals with the ousted governor about President Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

Testifying for less than five minutes, Mr. Emanuel leaned to one side, sometimes looking bored, as he told jurors with a one-word “no” that as White House chief of staff he never was asked directly by Blagojevich to help the then-governor get a top job in return for appointing someone to the Senate.

Mr. Jackson, on the stand only about 30 minutes, testified that he never authorized anyone to tell Blagojevich that his supporters could raise money for the former governor if he made Mr. Jackson a senator.

But in their cross-examination, prosecutors took advantage of Mr. Jackson’s appearance to ask about an unrelated incident that could prove damaging to Blagojevich in the jury’s eyes.

Under questioning, Mr. Jackson confirmed that Blagojevich had once considered Mr. Jackson’s wife for head of the Illinois lottery. But Mr. Jackson told prosecutors that his wife didn’t get the promised appointment after Mr. Jackson refused to give Blagojevich a $25,000 campaign donation.

Mr. Jackson said that when he met with Blagojevich in 2003 after someone else got the job, Blagojevich apologized that the appointment didn’t pan out but made it clear the donation was at least part of the reason why.

“In classic Elvis Presley fashion, he snapped both fingers and said, `You should have given me that $25,000,’ ” Mr. Jackson said, pantomiming a pose by Presley, the governor’s idol.

“It became increasingly clear to me that the governor of Illinois was trading … ” Mr. Jackson said before being cut off by an objection from Blagojevich’s attorneys.

Asked by defense attorney Aaron Goldstein if he ever offered to raise money in return for Blagojevich naming him, Mr. Jackson said firmly, “No, I did not.”

“I’ve never directed anyone to raise money for any politician in my life, other than myself,” Mr. Jackson said.

Jackson, a Chicago Democrat, is not accused of any wrongdoing in the case. Blagojevich watched Mr. Jackson intently as he entered and left the courtroom.

Mr. Emanuel made his brief appearance right after Mr. Jackson. Prosecutors did not ask him any questions in cross-examination, and the mayor left the courtroom as briskly as he’d come in.

After weeks of crowds far smaller than during the first trial, a crush of people tried to get into the courthouse Wednesday. Lines with dozens of people snaked through the lobby. Many people asked reporters if anyone had seen Mr. Emanuel.

The former governor, who denies any wrongdoing, faces 20 charges at his retrial. Among the other allegations is that he attempted to shake down Mr. Emanuel’s brother, a Hollywood agent, to raise political contributions for him. In court, the mayor said he was never asked by Blagojevich to have his brother raise money.

In Blagojevich’s first trial last year, his attorneys rested without calling a single witness. The jury later deadlocked on 23 of the 24 counts, including the Senate seat allegations, but convicted Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.

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