Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that he would not resign, despite growing criticism for what some are calling his botched response to video footage showing a Chicago police officer last year firing 16 times at Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from officers.
“No,” he said, during one of several testy exchanges through the course of a nearly hour-long discussion with POLITICO’s Mike Allen and POLITICO Illinois’ Natasha Korecki. “Because I really so much looked forward to this interview and I wanted to have it. I just felt so good saying that to you. We have a process called the election. The voters spoke. I’ll be held accountable for the decisions and actions that I make.”
Here’s what he means by “process.” Laquan McDonald was shot in October 2014 but not until just this past week did the dashcam video finally emerge, and that was only because a court finally ordered that it be released. Why’d it take 13 months? For starters, because Rahm had an election to win:
[In late 2014] the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.
The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.
And so the wheels of justice virtually ground to a halt. Mayor Emanuel refused to make the dash-cam video public, going to court to prevent its release. The city argued that releasing the video would taint the investigation of the case, but even the attorney general of Illinois urged the city to make it available.
If the video had come out, Emanuel would have been dealing with protests at a moment when anti-police demonstrations across the country were still burning hot. As it is, he won the run-off election in April by 11 points thanks in part to his strength among black voters, with an assist from his old friend Barack Obama. The city reached a settlement with McDonald’s family for $5 million just one week after the run-off. What if the settlement, the huge amount of which suggested egregious wrongdoing by the city, had come beforehand? What if Rahm had lost his court battle to suppress the dashcam vid back in March instead of last month? Columnist John Kass dialed up Chuy Garcia, the man who lost the run-off election to Emanuel, to ask him. “Everywhere I go people tell me it would have been a game changer,” Garcia said. “If people had seen it, they would have said, this city is so corrupt, it’s time for a change.” Rahm fans would say that’s self-serving. But then, Rahm fans will also tell you there was a perfectly good reason to suppress the video indefinitely.
In other words, he’s claiming legitimacy as mayor here based on a vote he illegitimately manipulated by withholding evidence of city misbehavior that the public had a right to see. His old boss is well practiced at delaying damaging developments until after an election too — it’s no coincidence that his executive amnesty last year happened a few weeks after the midterms, just as it’s no coincidence that we didn’t hear much about ISIS until after election day 2012. I can’t remember Obama pulling an election-related slowdown quite this brazen, though.
Here’s an exceedingly bitchy Rahm grumbling to Mike Allen that he let the cat out of the bag about his family vacation in Cuba this year.