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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bungling Burris?

Is anyone at all surprised that the testimony given to the Illinois Blagojevich Impeachment Committee by Roland Burris wasn't exactly accurate?

In part, Mr. Burris's testimony, with his attorney present, before the committee on January 8, 2009, went like this:

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, 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.

Okay, stop there for a moment. While it is somewhat of a lengthy question, upon conferring off-mic with his attorney, Mr. Burris did answer it. He was asked about specific names. And he said he talked with some friends. Is he saying the named people are his friends? Or is he saying he didn't talk to those people specifically, but to some other people who are his friends? Continuing on:

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.

To recap, Representative Durkin threw out six specific names, (1) John Harris, (2) Rob Blagojevich, (3) Doug Scofield, (4) Bob Greenleaf, (5) Lon Monk, and (6) John Wyma. Mr. Burris admitted to one, Lon Monk.

One would get the clear impression, and it appears the questioner did too, that Mr. Burris spoke to Monk but none of the others. Did Representative Durkin err in not asking about the other names again? The names were out there. How many times does the questioner have to repeat the names to get an answer?

I'm leaving out the rest of the testimony as the questions and answers went on from there as to quid pro quo issues. So, having established who Mr. Burris talked to, they want to know if he talked about some kind of payback or payoff.

Yesterday we learn that Mr. Burris subsequently filed a supplemental affidavit with the Committee for the purpose of clarifying his testimony.

3. 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.

Mr. Burris now admits to talking to two more of the people he was originally questioned about, Doug Scofield and John Wyma.

4. I recall that Governor Blagojevich’s brother, Rob Blagojevich, called me three times to seek my assistance in fund-raising for Governor Blagojevich. The first conversation was in early October, 2008, and the other two were shortly after the election. During the first conversation I asked Rob Blagojevich what was going on with the selection of a successor if then-Senator Obama were elected President, and he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions. In one of the other conversations (I believe the last one), I mentioned the Senate seat 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 regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama. I did not raise or donate any funds to Governor Blagojevich after the fundraiser on June 27, 2008.

There's a third one, Rob Blagojevich's (Rod's brother).

5. In October, 2008, I attempted to contact John Harris via telephone to give a recommendation for my nephew who had applied for a job with the State of Illinois. Mr. Harris was unavailable and I left a voicemail message for him. Approximately three weeks later, Mr. Harris called and I discussed with him my nephew’s qualifications for the job with the State of Illinois. At the conclusion of the conversation, I inquired as to the whether there was any news regarding then-Governor Blagojevich’s possible picks to fill President Obama’s Senate seat. Mr. Harris indicated that there was no news as to President Obama’s replacement.

And, there's a fourth one. Even though Mr. Burris talked to five of the six named people, he only saw fit to discuss one in his testimony.


Representative Jim Durkin is calling for the Sangamon County State's Attorney to investigate whether Roland Burris perjured himself before the Committee.

Roland Burris went on TV today, gave a short statement, and took questions from the press (see video in the last Capitol Fax link).

Even though Mr. Burris did not take the opportunity on January 8th to stop Representative Durkin from going on with a new question so he could discuss all those contacts during his testimony, he had no problem today getting forceful with the press to try and clarify his position.

Also, I'm uncomfortable with Roland Burris deferring to his attorney to answer questions from the press. Maybe they all do it, but I think it's bad form for a United States Senator. The press is there on behalf of the people. The press is there to get answers from him (not his lawyer) for the people he represents. His lawyer doesn't represent us. We don't have anything to do with his lawyer. Roland Burris should not even have had his attorney on the podium. It looks like Roland Burris can't speak to the people without his mouthpiece.

In his press conference, Roland Burris tries to convince us that there is a distinction between him talking about an appointment and him talking about the senate seat. No. It's the same thing. Such technicalities are reserved for the courtroom. There are no technicalities in the court of public opinion.

At one point, in answer to a question about the FBI, Roland Burris said that "some agents have reached out to my lawyers." At another point, his attorney said that "the FBI has not come to us. They're not asking us for anything."

Finally, I've been wanting to mention the Roland Burris befuddlement routine since the press conference where Rod Blagojevich announced the appointment. Sometimes it seems like an act, and other times genuine. In either event, it's unbecoming of a United State Senator. Or maybe that part's just my imagination. But the rest is not.

Update: There's a continuation of this at Part 2.

Posted by Marie at February 15, 2009 11:06 PM


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