The corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is already shaping up to be a political circus, promising to lay bare the underbelly of Chicago politics.
But while the stakes are clear for Blagojevich — he could be the fourth Illinois governor in 40 years to retire to a federal prison — some of the most powerful Washington insiders are braced for potential political damage from the trial, which begins Thursday.
President Barack Obama, White House aides Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) all have at least some interest in the outcome, according to documents produced by prosecutors, defense lawyers and the White House counsel. Blagojevich has been charged with engaging in state-level kickback schemes, but Washington is much more focused on allegations he tried to sell Obama's old Senate seat.