It’s the trial the White House hopes you won’t watch.
The federal corruption saga of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been rattling along during the sweltering Chicago summer, offering a daily dose of low-grade theatrics, low-impact bombshells and low-brow humor.
The top White House officials — President Barack Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett — haven’t been too badly bruised so far, by Chicago standards at least, even as federal prosecutors air wiretaps of Blagojevich’s ugliest private conversations about them.
But despite the trial’s Jerry Springer start, the threat of political damage remains serious for all of them – and another Democrat as well, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.). On Wednesday, prosecutors attached Jackson’s name to allegations of a $1 million pay-to-play scheme for Obama’s Senate seat – though Jackson has categorically denied any wrongdoing since Blagojevich’s December 2008 arrest and he has not been accused of any illegal activity.
Obama — who crusaded against government-by-crony — was dragged into the proceedings last week when a top Chicago labor official testified that Obama tapped him to talk to Blagojevich about the Senate seat.