Blagojevich witnesses Jesse Jackson Jr., Rahm Emanuel take the stand

May 25, 2011

By The Associated Press

Updated: 11:40 am on 5/25/11

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel testified for less than five minutes answered just a handful of questions at the corruption trial of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The former White House chief of staff told jurors with a one-word `no' that he never was asked directly by Blagojevich to help the then-governor get a top job in return for appointing someone to President Barack Obama's old Senate. Prosecutors did not ask any questions in cross-examination.

Emanuel's not accused of any wrongdoing.

One other allegation is that Blagojevich wanted to withhold a $2 million grant for a school in Emanuel's Chicago district when Emanuel was in Congress unless Emanuel's Hollywood-agent brother held a fundraiser for Blagojevich. Blagojevich denies any wrong doing.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. also testifyed at the corruption retrial, stating that that he never offered to raise money for the ousted governor in exchange for a Senate seat. He said his wife didn't get a promised appointment to head the Illinois lottery after Jackson refused to give former Gov. Rod Blagojevich a $25,000 campaign donation.

Prosecutors have used Jackson's testimony at Blagojevich's retrial on corruption charges to demonstrate that the former governor was not above exchanging jobs for campaign cash.

Jackson said under cross-examination Wednesday that he met with Blagojevich in 2003 after someone else was appointed to the lottery job. Jackson says Blagojevich snapped his fingers and said, "You should have given me that $25,000." Jackson says Blagojevich made the comment while mimicking his idol Elvis' voice. And Jackson himself put on a low, Elvis-like voice as he explained the conversation with Blagojevich. Jackson was on the stand about 30 minutes. 

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

He also said he never authorized anyone to tell Blagojevich that money could be raised if Jackson was made a senator. The Chicago Democrat's not accused of any wrongdoing in the case.

Following his testimony, Jackson issued the following statement via his attorneys: "As you can imagine, I have many strong feelings about this entire matter. My strongest feeling, however, is respect for our judicial system. Therefore, I will have no further comment about the case or how it has affected me until there is a verdict."

In the first trial last year, Blagojevich's attorneys rested without calling a single witness. The jury later deadlocked on 23 of the 24 counts against the former governor, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign funds or a job for himself.

The defense attorneys say that the two officials could help prove Blagojevich's actions weren't crimes.