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Rauner to be a no-show for Trump’s first Illinois visit — not even sure of date

Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, speaks to members of the media earlier this month. File Photo. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House, Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, speaks to members of the media last month. File Photo. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House last month. File Photo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t plan to be there when Donald Trump makes his first visit to Illinois as president later this week.

Asked about his plans, Rauner wasn’t even sure when Trump would visit the state.

“I heard the president is coming to Granite City, I think either Thursday or Friday,” Rauner said Monday in Wheaton.

Thursday, a reporter pointed out.

“I, uh, I do not plan to go. I was just in Granite City just in the past week,” he said.

Asked why that mattered, Rauner told reporters he talks to nearly everyone else at the White House.

“I go to the White House. I talk with the staff. I talk to the vice president all the time.”

Granite City is the site of a U.S. Steel Corp. mill that is reopening, a move credited to new tariffs on imported steel. But that trade war also has had negative effects, with Illinois soybean farmers feeling the pinch due to tariffs China imposed on that product.

“It’s outstanding that Granite City steel is re-opening. … The flip-side is, we’ve got to be careful with tariffs in a tariff war because tariffs can dramatically harm our farmers in Illinois and many other manufacturers in Illinois,” Rauner said Monday.

The U.S. Steel Granite City Works facility is seen Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Granite City, Ill. After being shut down for roughly two years, the plant recently restarted one of its two idle blast furnaces with the second scheduled to come back online later this year. | AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

The U.S. Steel Granite City Works facility, after being shut down for roughly two years, recently restarted an idle blast furnace. | AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Rauner often has distanced himself from Trump, to the point of even avoiding saying the president’s name. Earlier this month, though, he appeared with Vice President Mike Pence at an event in Rosemont.

It wasn’t long after the Trump visit was announced that Rauner’s Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker, was making an issue of Rauner’s constant sidesteps with regard to the president.

A Pritzker spokesman taunted the governor, asking if Rauner would embrace the president, or “run scared.”

A spokesman for GOP Attorney General nominee Erica Harold told the Sun-Times she will not be attending the Granite City event. She will be in the Carbondale area on Thursday.

Rauner also addressed the recent hiring by the Illinois Policy Institute of Mark Janus, a state employee who had sued over fees he was required to pay to his union.

Janus’ case, long championed by Rauner, made its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a 5-4 decision in Janus’ favor in June. It ruled that the First Amendment rights of non-union government employees shield them from having to pay the fees.

Less than a month after the ruling, Janus is leaving his $71,000-per-year child support specialist job at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Springfield.

The Illinois Policy Institute and its affiliated Liberty Justice Center supplied Janus with the legal firepower to bring the case to the nation’s highest court.

Rauner had a public split last year with the Illinois Policy Institute after signing a bill protecting abortion in the state, but he stood alongside the think tank’s CEO John Tillman and Janus on the steps outside the Supreme Court after their win.

Rauner said Monday he didn’t recommend Janus for his new position and had nothing at all to do with Janus’ hiring.

Editor’s note: Some organized-labor groups have ownership stakes in Sun-Times Media, including the Chicago Federation of Labor; Construction and General Labors District Council of Chicago and Vicinity; Operating Engineers Local 150; SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana and SEIU Local 1.