CHICAGO -- Lawyers for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich have subpoenaed White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as a witness at his corruption trial, attorneys close to the case and a White House official say. White House adviser Valerie Jarrett also was subpoenaed, another White House official said.
Blagojevich's racketeering and fraud trial is due to get under way Thursday with jury selection, following 18 months of skirmishing in the courts and the news media. The former governor, who is accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat, has pleaded not guilty.
The attorneys close to the case spoke on condition of anonymity, saying Emanuel's subpoena was not public. Both White House officials also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
If Emanuel did take the witness stand, he might be asked about what effort if any the White House had made to get Blagojevich to appoint Jarrett to the Senate seat. Neither Emanuel nor Jarrett, who was mentioned as a possible candidate for the seat but withdrew her name to become a White House adviser, has been accused of any wrongdoing.
According to the indictment, Blagojevich ordered an associate to pressure Emanuel -- then a Chicago congressman -- to get his Hollywood agent brother to raise funds. It says Blagojevich told the associate to threaten to withhold money for a school in Emanuel's congressional district. But there is nothing in the indictment to suggest that Emanuel was actually threatened.
Blagojevich and his brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty to charges that they schemed to profit from the governor's power to fill the Senate seat. They have also pleaded not guilty to plotting to join with his key advisers to mobilize the powers of the governor's office to further a moneymaking racketeering scheme.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel turned down a request from Rod Blagojevich's lawyers for a delay in the trial, telling them to get ready to start picking a jury Thursday. Scores of potential jurors were already in the federal courthouse filling out questionnaires.
Blagojevich's lawyers had said in a motion filed late Tuesday that they have been swamped by as many as nine million pages of documents, 270 hours of tapes and summaries of interviews with more than 700 people and haven't had time to cope with the massive amount of preparation.
Zagel also refused to reconsider his ruling last week that there is no reason to restart the jury selection process.
The judge said he plans to call in and question a maximum of 34 jurors every day until a jury is seated. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will initially be trying to weed out jurors they consider potentially biased and thus unable to come up with a fair verdict.
The final panel will consist of 12 jurors plus a thus-far unspecified number of alternates.