Japan envoy pick Emanuel: Chicago teen shooting weighs heavy

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel attends a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel attends a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel attends a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel attends a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel, left, speaks with Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., after Durbin spoke in support of Emanuel's nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel, left, speaks with Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., after Durbin spoke in support of Emanuel's nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • Danaka Katovich of Code Pink, holds a sign during a rally to protest former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ambassador to Japan appointment outside the Chicago Police Headquarters Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. The fatal police shooting of a Black teen in Chicago seven years ago is looming large over the city's former mayor, Emanuel, as he looks to win confirmation as President Joe Biden's ambassador to Japan.

    Danaka Katovich of Code Pink, holds a sign during a rally to protest former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ambassador to Japan appointment outside the Chicago Police Headquarters Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. The fatal police shooting of a Black teen in Chicago seven years ago is looming large over the city's former mayor, Emanuel, as he looks to win confirmation as President Joe Biden's ambassador to Japan. Associated Press

  • Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, speaks in support of Rahm Emanuel's nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, speaks in support of Rahm Emanuel's nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel attends a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel attends a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. House Illinois District 7 candidate Kina Collins speaks during a rally to protest former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointment as ambassador to Japan outside the Chicago Police Headquarters Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. The fatal police shooting of a Black teen in Chicago seven years ago is looming large over the city's former mayor, Emanuel, as he looks to win confirmation as President Joe Biden's ambassador to Japan.

    U.S. House Illinois District 7 candidate Kina Collins speaks during a rally to protest former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointment as ambassador to Japan outside the Chicago Police Headquarters Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. The fatal police shooting of a Black teen in Chicago seven years ago is looming large over the city's former mayor, Emanuel, as he looks to win confirmation as President Joe Biden's ambassador to Japan. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel arrives for a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel arrives for a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

  • U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel, left, listens as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., speaks in support of Emanuel's nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan nominee Rahm Emanuel, left, listens as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., speaks in support of Emanuel's nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/20/2021 1:51 PM

WASHINGTON -- Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he did nothing improper but still fell short in his handling of the fatal police shooting of a Black teenager in the city seven years ago, a dark moment in his tenure looming large now as he hopes to win Senate confirmation as President Joe Biden's ambassador to Japan.

Several liberal House lawmakers and activists have urged the Senate to reject Emanuel's nomination because of his handling of the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times as he he moved away from police on a Chicago street. Emanuel's hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came on the seventh anniversary of McDonald's killing.

 

Emanuel's critics argue that his nomination is out of sync with the values of an administration that says 'œcomprehensive and meaningful police reform" is a priority.

But Emanuel, whose administration refused to make public the police dash cam video of the killing for more than a year and only did so after being compelled by a state court, said his hands were tied at the time by outdated rules that governed the release of police video.

'œA grave tragedy occurred seven years ago, to this day, on the streets of the city of Chicago, and that tragedy sits with me, as it has every day and every week for the last seven years,' Emanuel said.

Emanuel's reputation for sharp elbows - developed over his decades in national politics as an Illinois congressman and top adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - also is part of the backdrop as he tries to demonstrate that he has the temperament for international diplomacy, particularly in protocol-conscious Japan. .

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If confirmed, Emanuel will be Biden's chief envoy to Japan at a moment when the two nations are looking to strengthen ties as their common adversary, China, has strengthened its position as an economic and national security competitor in the Pacific.

'œMy top priority will be to deepen these ties while we confront our common challenges," Emanuel told the committee. 'œChina aims to conquer through division. America's strategy is security through unity. That regional unity is built on the U.S.-Japan alliance."

No Democratic senator has publicly stated he or she would vote against Emanuel. The White House expects he will win support from several Republicans, including Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, who was President Donald Trump's ambassador to Japan.

Among the Democrats most critical of Emanuel's nomination are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who called the pick 'œdeeply shameful," and Cori Bush of Missouri, who has called on the Senate 'œto do the right thing and block his nomination."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hagerty and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., formally introduced Emanuel at the hearing. Hagerty said while there were many issues on which he disagrees with Emanuel, he was certain the nominee shares his 'œunwavering conviction that the U.S.-Japan relationship is the cornerstone for peace and prosperity' in the Indo-Pacific region.

The release of the McDonald video led Chicago to make a series of changes in policies on police cameras, the use of force and training. Months before the video's release, the city agreed to pay a $5 million settlement to McDonald's family.

Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald 16 times. was convicted of second-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated assault and sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. The episode strained Emanuel's relationship with the city's sizable Black community.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said the committee should 'œweigh' Emanuel's handling of the McDonald killing and that Emanuel has a 'œstory to tell' about the changes made in Chicago after the video was released. But the senator raised concern about several aspects of the case, including the fact that Emanuel did not view footage of the shooting until shortly before it was made public and months after a large settlement was paid out to McDonald's family.

Emanuel said he kept a distance so federal, state and police oversight investigations could proceed without political interference.

Eight Black members of Chicago's City Council who were allies of Emanuel during his tenure praised Emanuel, in a letter to the Senate committee, for lengthening the day for the city's public schools and taking other steps that benefited long-neglected Black neighborhoods.

Rev. Martin Hunter, the great uncle of McDonald, also wrote on Emanuel's behalf, arguing that Emanuel had 'œinherited a deeply flawed system" on police investigations that tied his hands. Emanuel told the committee that he and Hunter have prayed together about the incident and wished they had 'œa magic wand' to fix what's broken in the criminal justice system.

Hunter wrote in his letter to the committee: 'œThere is more to this individual than the caricature that is presented in the public."

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