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Partisan hit on Burris or legit questions? Probably both

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* Watch Sen. Burris’ Sunday press conference and then we’ll talk about it below…

* It’s obvious to me that Sen. Burris should have disclosed all contacts with Rod Blagojevich insiders about the vacant or soon to be vacant Barack Obama US Senate seat in his first affidavit to the House impeachment committee. He didn’t do that. His failure to do so undermines everything else he says about this issue and he’s gonna have to live with that.

Burris did try to partially set the record straight at the hearing itself, but as I’ll explain below (again), the Republicans screwed up the questioning. However, Burris should have not completely relied on GOP questions at the impeachment hearing to get the full story out. His statements today that he was just answering the questions which were asked are not good enough. He obviously did not make a real attempt to disclose everything, either at the committee hearing or immediately afterward. He deserves plenty of heat for that.

Also, Burris made a lawyerly distinction today between asking people about his possible appointment and asking about the vacant Senate seat in general. But that doesn’t hold up with his latest affidavit, as we’ll show below. Plus, we have to take him at his word that he didn’t ask about himself during some of his conversations, and his word isn’t much good these days.

* The Illinois House Republicans are calling for an investigation by the Republican Sangamon State’s Attorney about whether Burris perjured himself during testimony to the House impeachment committee. From a press release…

House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and State Representative Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) today are calling for a criminal investigation into sworn testimony by U.S. Senator Roland Burris before the House Special Impeachment Investigative Committee. Inconsistencies in Burris’ sworn affidavits and testimony have recently come to light prompting lawmakers to ask House Speaker Michael Madigan and Committee Chairman Barbara Flynn Currie to refer the matter to the Sangamon County State’s Attorney to determine whether or not Senator Burris committed perjury.

“As co-chair of the impeachment committee, I asked Roland Burris under oath whether he had any contact with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives including his brother, Rob Blagojevich, regarding the U.S. Senate seat prior to the Governor’s arrest. Under oath, Burris neglected to mention several conversations that he now recalls having with Blagojevich’s brother,” Durkin said. “I also asked whether he had any conversations that involved ‘quid pro quo’. Under oath, he said ‘no’. Now, he says he was asked repeatedly to raise money for the governor. Obviously, Burris’ initial statements under oath weren’t the whole truth.”

Burris called that reaction “simply, plain partisan politics” during his press conference today. And he’s probably right.

* Rep. Durkin is correct that Burris didn’t disclose the other contacts. But if you read Sen. Roland Burris’ final affidavit to the House impeachment committee, he says pretty much what I noted yesterday. Burris says that he was asked whether he spoke with “anyone closely related to the governor” about his desire to seek the then vacant US Senate seat. Burris talked about the Lon Monk contact, and says in the affidavit that he was “then asked another question [by Rep. Durkin] and did not mention anyone else.” That is correct.

The Republicans on the committee asked the right questions, they just didn’t follow up properly. And the media questions of Burris today make it abundantly clear that they completely misunderstand this. From the transcript

REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Did you talk to any members of the Governor’s staff or anyone closely related to the Governor, including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including let me throw out some names, John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf [sic], Lon Monk, John Wyma, did you talk to anybody who was associated with the Governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the Governor’s arrest?

MR. WRIGHT: Give us a moment.

MR. BURRIS: I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes.

REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: I guess the point is I was trying to ask, did you speak to anybody who was on the Governor’s staff prior to the Governor’s arrest or anybody, any of those individuals or anybody who is closely related to the Governor?

MR. BURRIS: I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business, and I did bring it up, it must have been in September or maybe it was in July of ‘08 that, you know, you’re close to the Governor, let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat.

Rep. Durkin then changed the subject. No follow-up questions were asked about other contacts. Should Burris have interrupted him and explained further? Probably. But the fact remains that Durkin blew it.

From the Sun-Times

“I don’t know if Mr. Burris was purposely being evasive during the committee or had selected memory issues.” [said Rep. Durkin]

Read the transcript yourself and it’s clear that they had Burris cornered and then let him go by failing to follow up. That doesn’t let Burris off the hook, mind you, but it does undermine what the Republicans are saying today about perjury.

* Back to Burris’ latest affidavit

“On June 27, 2008, I attended a fundraising event for then-Governor Blagojevich at which I encountered Doug Scofield and John Wyma. During that event I likely asked Mr. Scofield and/or Mr. Wyma to tell Governor Blagojevich that I was interested in filling now-President Barack Obama’s Senate seat if he were to be elected President of the United States.”

That clearly contradicts his original affidavit

Prior to the December 26, 2008 telephone call from Mr. Adams, Jr., there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate.

So, his first sworn statement was false.

Also, if Burris had disclosed this, or if the Republicans had pressed their case, we’d know what Scofield and Wyma said to Burris. That question wasn’t asked today at the Chicago press conference, either. Burris admitted that he asked people about himself, not the Senate seat in general, and that undermines a big part of what he said today.

* Sen. Burris also said that John Harris returned his call about a job recommendation that Burris had given for his nephew. When Harris called back, Burris now says

“I inquired as to the [sic] whether there was any news regarding then-Governor Blagojevich’s possible pick to fill President Obama’s Senate seat. Mr. Harris indicated that there was no news as to President Obama’s replacement.”

If true, that’s not a huge deal. The problem is that Burris has changed his story so many times that nobody knows what to believe now.

* Another question, which was not answered at the impeachment hearings, is what happened with Rob Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother. Burris’ latest affidavit claims, as reported yesterday, that Rob Blagojevich called him three times to ask him for fundraising assistance for then Gov. Blagojevich. From the new affidavit

“During the first conversation I asked Rob Blagojevich what was going on with the selection of a successor… and he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions.”


If the Blagojevich people knew Burris was in the mix, then asking Burris to raise money would’ve provided a hint that they wanted some quid pro quo, which would tend to contradict what he said during the impeachment hearing. That may also be why Burris said today that his lawyers have been contacted by federal agents about this case.

Burris also said he believed he mentioned the Senate seat during the last conversation with Rob Blagojevich “in the context of saying that I could not contribute to Governor Blagojevich because it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him.”

Again, we’re being asked to believe a guy who has changed his story three different times.

* The Republicans do have a valid question about this

Additionally, Cross was upset he and Durkin had only learned of the Feb. 5 affidavit through the media Friday night.

“This affidavit is a piece of evidence,” said Cross, of Oswego. “And it was withheld… by the Democrats.”

Neither Cross nor Durkin, of Western Springs, knew if anyone other than Currie had seen the affidavit before news of its existence appeared in the media.

Durkin said he hopes Currie will reconvene the impeachment committee to discuss the matter. Although angered the affidavit was not shared with lawmakers, Durkin stopped short of saying she covered up the affidavit.

* And here comes the special election talk again

Based on federal law, the state Senate could argue that Burris was a temporary appointment, then pass a bill calling for a special election to name a permanent senator, [Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch] said.
But Quinn’s hands may be tied.

“I don’t see anything that the current governor could do, except to ask for legislation to ask for a special election,” she said.

posted by Rich Miller
Sunday, Feb 15, 09 @ 5:33 pm


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