Rod Blagojevich's run as Illinois governor may be over, but the political fallout from his 16-count corruption indictment last week is just beginning. Blago's trial is likely to feature a number of high-profile figures, including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and convicted political fixer Antoin (Tony) Rezko. Emanuel is not accused of any wrongdoing. Rather, he's identified as the target of an attempted Blagojevich extortion scheme. According to the indictment, while Emanuel was a U.S. congressman in 2006, he inquired about state funding for a charter school. Blagojevich then instructed an official to set up a quid pro quo: a fundraiser for him, hosted by Emanuel's brother, Hollywood superagent Ari. The scheme went nowhere. "There was no way [Ari] was going to have a fundraiser," said one lawyer familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity because of legal sensitivities. Still, the allegation could put Emanuel on the witness stand—much to the White House's dismay. Rezko, once a major fundraiser for President Obama who is now cooperating with the Feds, is accused of conspiring with the governor on various extortion and kickback schemes. (Blagojevich, from a vacation in Disney World, released a statement saying he is "innocent.")
Democrats won't be the only ones discomforted by the trial. Another accused co-conspirator is William Cellini, a powerful GOP power broker, who has denied wrongdoing. Blagojevich is also accused of directing lucrative state bond business to an unidentified lobbyist as part of a deal to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to Rezko, who in turn allegedly agreed to split the money with the governor and two associates. The unnamed lobbyist, according to a legal source who also requested anonymity, is Robert Kjellander, a former GOP national treasurer. Kjellander's lawyer said the allegations are "factually wrong." According to testimony from a key witness in Rezko's trial, as federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was ramping up his Blagojevich probe in 2004, Kjellander pressed Bush adviser Karl Rove to fire Fitzgerald. Kjellander and Rove have both denied knowledge of such talks. "The investigation is continuing," said a Fitzgerald spokesman.