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Emanuel: ‘My thoughts are with' Blagojevich family as prison term nears

**FILE** In this Dec. 22, 2003, file photo, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., right, answers a question as Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, listens during a news conference in Chicago. President-elect Barack Obama and two of his top aides met last week with federal investigators building a corruption case against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of trying to swap Obama's Senate seat for cash or a lucrative job. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Carrera, File)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he would have to be “callous” not to sympathize with the family of his former political ally Rod Blagojevich for the “ripping” family tragedy unfolding as the former governor heads to prison for the next 14 years.

“While obviously the judge and the jury have made their decision, anybody if they haven’t seen a family torn would be callous” if they didn’t feel sorry for the family, Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference on park programs.

“So, my thoughts are with the rest of the Blagojevich family. Everybody else has made their judgment on the public side. [But] every one of these public sides has a private side. … My thoughts are right now with Patti and the kids because this is very ripping. … There’s a family here. There are children here whose father is about to go to jail. So, my thoughts are with them. My thoughts are with the family and the private side.”

Blagojevich is expected to report Thursday to the low-security federal prison near Denver where he has asked to serve his sentence.

Emanuel and Blagojevich were once political allies – close enough that Emanuel asked Blagojevich to appoint a seat warmer to take Emanuel’s place in Congress during his stint as White House chief of staff.

Four days after the 2008 presidential election, Emanuel called then-Gov. Blagojevich to suggest a plan “just “between you and I” to appoint then-Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool as Emanuel’s temporary successor “in my interest of, uh, you know, having somebody there you know that doesn’t want to make it a lifetime commitment.”

In the conversation, captured by a federal wiretap, Emanuel said Claypool only wants to serve “for like one term or two, max. And then, he wants to go to the cabinet.”

The call ended with Emanuel telling Blagojevich, “I will not forget this. I appreciate it. That’s all I am going to say. I don’t want to go – you and I shouldn’t go farther.”

During the former governor’s second trial, Emanuel was called as a defense witness to testify about that conversation. He was on the stand for less than five minutes and has never discussed the conversation again.