CHICAGO - Rod Blagojevich's lawyers launched his defense Wednesday in his retrial on corruption charges, summoning Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to testify that they did not know of any actual deals with the ousted governor over filling President Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Testifying for less than five minutes, Emanuel responded with a simple "no" when asked if as White House chief of staff he was asked directly by Blagojevich to help the then-governor get a top job in return for appointing someone to the Senate.
Jackson, on the stand 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 Jackson a senator.
Blagojevich plans to take the stand himself, his spokesman said later. It wasn't immediately clear just when that might happen, but court discussions Wednesday evening about FBI wiretap evidence indicated it could be Thursday, when the defense resumes its case.
In their cross-examination, prosecutors took advantage of Jackson's appearance to ask about an unrelated incident that could prove damaging to Blagojevich.
Under questioning, Jackson confirmed that Blagojevich had once considered Jackson's wife for a position as head of the Illinois lottery. But Jackson told prosecutors that his wife didn't get the promised appointment after Jackson refused to give Blagojevich a $25,000 campaign donation.
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,' " Jackson said.
"It became increasingly clear to me that the governor of Illinois was trading . . . ," Jackson said before being cut off by an objection from Blagojevich's attorneys.