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Bernie Sanders says he doesn’t want Rahm Emanuel’s help in the presidential race

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Manchester last month. (Photo by Mary Schwalm/Reuters)
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CHICAGO -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said during a campaign stop here Wednesday that if he becomes the party’s nominee, he could make do without the support of Rahm Emanuel, the city’s embattled mayor and a confidant to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Sanders, who made a quick stop in Chicago to highlight his plans for criminal justice reform, was asked at a news conference about Emanuel, who has been politically weakened by a roiling controversy over a police shooting.

“If the question is do I want or need Rahm Emanuel’s support for president, with all due respect for the mayor, no I don’t,” Sanders said.

The Vermont senator was joined by more than two dozen campaign surrogates and other supporters from around the country, including academic Cornel West, rapper Killer Mike and Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

[Sanders: No elected official should be ‘shielded’ in wake of Chicago shooting]

Also on stage was Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners who lost to Emanuel in a runoff for Chicago mayor in April.

When asked about Emanuel, Sanders pointed to Garcia, and said, “This was my guy,” a reference to Sanders’s endorsement of Garcia in the mayor’s race.

Emanuel is a former senior adviser to President Clinton, the husband of Sanders’s chief rival for the 2016 nomination. He later later to the White House as chief of staff to President Obama.

Emanuel remains at the center of a controversy over a 2014 police shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old, facing intense questions over why a dashcam video of the incident was not publicly released until long after Emanuel had won the runoff for mayor. One young man who stood behind Sanders on stage wore a T-shirt proclaiming “Rahm failed us.”

Emanuel, who has brushed aside calls for his resignation amid a federal investigation into the shooting, has said that the delay in releasing the video was standard procedure given a lawsuit was pending against the city.

In a statement earlier this month, Sanders called for the resignation of “any elected official” in Chicago who knew that a recording was improperly withheld in the case. Aides said at the time that Sanders had not reached a conclusion about whether Emanuel acted properly.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Sanders ticked off a long list of “mind-boggling statistics” about the plight of African Americans in the country, asserting, for example, that blacks are four times as likely as white to be arrested on marijuana charges even though they use the drug at roughly the same rate. He also noted that 13 percent of African American men have lost their right to vote because of felony convictions.

Sanders also ran through highlights of a previously released criminal justice reform plan, promising to remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of dangerous drugs and to end the United States’s distinction of jailing more of its citizens than any other country.

Prior to the news conference, Garcia hosted a gathering for Sanders in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, where residents are predominantly Mexican-American.

“He’s here today because Bernie Sanders is someone who believes health care, housing and child care are basic human rights for everyone in America,” Garcia said. “He understands the plight of ordinary working people across this land.”

In Sanders’s bid for the Democratic nomination, polls have shown Clinton with a large lead among both African American and Latino voters, two important Democratic constituencies once the race moves beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, two states with largely white populations.

Sanders has acknowledged his disadvantage and said repeatedly that he is working aggressively to court minority voters.