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The [Tuesday] Papers

BREAKING 12:43 P.M.: I'm late to this, but I'm only one person. I just saw it now.

"U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor's brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama."

Unbelievable.

BREAKING 12:53 P.M.: Via Capitol Fax:

"Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan today referred several documents associated with U.S. Senator Roland Burris and his testimony last month before the Illinois House Special Investigative Committee to Sangamon County States Attorney John Schmidt."

PLUS: Arenda Troutman sentenced to four years.

-

The Roland Burris Show rolls on.

Perjury Trap
I get a kick out of all these experts opining about whether Burris committed perjury. Just to cite one of numerous examples, the Sun-Times digs up former Cook County prosecutor Irv Miller today.

"Miller said he wouldn't approve perjury charges if the case were brought to him," the paper reports.

How do you know? There hasn't been an investigation yet.

No perjury case would be brought solely on the "evidence" at hand. Depositions would be taken, witnesses interviewed, documents subpoeaned and reviewed . . . there's no way to know what an investigation would turn up. So the question isn't whether Burris committed perjury, it's whether a perjury investigation ought to be opened. And I can't imagine a rationale for answering that with a No. Unless Irv Miller knows something we don't.

*

Chicago lawyer Karen Conti just made another point on Fox Chicago's Good Day Chicago; Conti isn't so sure that Burris perjured himself while testifying before the House impeachment panel, but says that the first affidavit Burris filed contains a "bald-faced lie" about not having contacts with members of the Blagojevich administration about his appointment.

Conti also says, though, that Burris's testimony could amount to obstruction of justice. Additionally, the impeachment panel could hold him in contempt. Finally, the U.S. Senate could expel Burris, which apparently takes a two-thirds' vote. In the least, as has been mentioned, Burris's case could be referred to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee.

Dunkin' Durbin
"Burris, I'm told by several sources, strolled up to Durbin, the No. 2 Senate leader, and Reid on the Senate floor while they were in the midst of overseeing the vote on President Obama's stimulus bill, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of this nation," Lynn Sweet reports. "Burris vastly minimized the nature of the document he filed."

Durbin is out of the country, though that is no excuse for telling reporters via a spokesperson that he's "unavailable for comment."

Sweet's Sour
"Burris is now tying himself in knots parsing what he said to the impeachment panel," Sweet writes. "Don't be fooled. Burris clearly had no intention of telling the whole back story leading up to Blagojevich tapping him for the spot."

*

Burris not only lied to the impeachment committee, he lied to the media. Sweet's transcription of a Burris press conference that she posted on her blog on January 7:

LYNN SWEET: And I think they do want to know what kind of contacts, if any, you had with Blagojevich. I've read the affidavit that you sent, but I have a question a little deeper.

I was under the impression that when - before Blagojevich's arrest, that you did want to put yourself in play for an appointment. And if so - your affidavit said you had no contact with the governor - how were you putting yourself in play? Who were you talking to specifically?

MR. BURRIS: Oh, I was putting myself in play, Lynn, by friends from Illinois and across the nation saying, "Roland, what would you" - well, you know, "You want to be senator, or you ought to be senator," you know, "What can we do?" My statement was, "Call the governor's office, send an e-mail to the governor's office, send in letters." And they were doing that from all over the country.

And so I thought, you know, that that would raise some level of interest on behalf of my - (chuckles) - of my interest in the Senate seat.

And evidently it didn't, because - (laughter) - because they didn't even mention my name. I mean, I - I didn't even show up anywhere. And I don't know what they were doing with the names of the people calling in because one of my high school classmates - by the way, I was in the class of '55, Lynn - and one of them called into the governor's office, and she called back to my classmate in Centralia, my hometown, who had started this, and said, this lady said you're the thousandth person to call in for Roland Burris. We know about Roland Burris. Somebody said that. (Laughs.)

QUESTION: Do you think that anyone, on your behalf, might have talked to - that - this wasn't covered in the affidavit. Do you - I don't think. Do you think anyone ever actually talked to the governor? Are you concerned that it might be with the wiretap? You know, the phone conversations that might surface -

MR. BURRIS: I have no knowledge of that, Lynn. And if they did, it's - there was certainly no pay-to-play involved because I don't have no money. (Laughter.)

Dunkin' Durkin
Did state Rep. Jim Durkin blow it by not asking the right questions? Yes and no.

Here's what I wrote at the time:

"Suburban Republican Jim Durkin got things started and made such a hash of his questioning that I was surprised to learn from his Wikipedia profile that he's actually a lawyer. Hey Jim, John Marshall Law School is calling, they want their diploma back!"

Nonetheless, between his queries and those from other members, the right questions were asked.

Funky Fritchey
State Rep. John Fritchey, one of the leading candidates in the race to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress, is now asking that Burris return to Springfield to answer "any and all questions" put to him.

That's rich. Here's what I wrote about Fritchey on the day of Burris's testimony:

"Chicago Democrat John Fritchey, who has been perhaps the sharpest critic of the governor, oddly kept objecting to Durkin's questions - and later that of other members - as if he was Burris' attorney. All I could figure was that Fritchey is now running for Congress in the Fifth District and is lining up his ducks by showing he can be a go-along guy."

During Durkin's questioning of Burris, Fritchey objected, saying, "Our mission today is to investigate Rod Blagojevich, not Roland Burris."

And then there was this exchange:

DURKIN: If you were aware of a quid pro quo, what would you have done?

[Both Burris' lawyer and Fritchey object to the question. Burris answers anyway.]

BURRIS: I would not participate in anybody's quid pro quo. I've been in government for 20 years and not participated in quid pro quo.

DURKIN: Would you have gone to federal authorities?

BURRIS: I have no response to that.

Of course, we know now that Rob Blagojevich solicited a campaign contribution from Roland Burris at the time Burris was seeking the Senate seat, and that the Blagojevichs' MO was (allegedly) seeking a quid pro quo trading campaign money for the appointment. And that Burris did not go to federal authorities.

Here's another one:

REP. BILL BLACK: Have you made any promise to the Illinos Democrat party or the national Democrat party that you will or won't be candidate in 2010?

BURRIS: That has not come up in any conversation.

FRITCHEY: That's clearly outside the scope . . .

BLACK: I'm beginning to think anything we ask is outside the scope . . . !

It wasn't outside the scope to ask if some sort of deal had been made.

Wrong Wright
The exchange being talked about the most is this one:

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 . . . associated with the governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the governor's arrest?

BURRIS LAWYER TIM WRIGHT: Give us a moment.

(Wright and Burris confer.)

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

The question is, what did Burris and Wright talk about before answering the question?

A) Dodge it, we'll clean it up later
B) Pretend we're talking to divert their attention
C) Dodge it, we'll clean it up later

Quid Pro Roland
Burris has said that he refused Rob Blagojevich's entreaties. "I made it unequivocally clear . . . that it would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy."

But sources have told the Sun-Times that "Burris said he'd get back to him after the election."

Mystery Burris Theater
State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) vs. reality.

Fresh Fritchey
Jesse Greenberg has another Fritchey excerpt that his opponents in the 5th are sure to pounce on.

Burris Didn't Act Alone
Naming names.

A Lifetime Of Lies
Even as a child, Burris parsed the truth.

Damage Control
Fritchey just put out a press release calling for special elections to fill all U.S. Senate vacancies.

"[T]hose of us in Illinois have seen firsthand the concerns that can arise when the will of the voters is replaced by the actions of one person in filling a Senate seat," Fritchey said in the statement.

He didn't mention his part in shepherding Burris through.

Roland's World
This passage from the Tribune today is a particularly strong contextual passage:

"But Burris' own words in recent days show the former attorney general steadily reached out to nearly every major insider who was part of Blagojevich's ever-shrinking inner circle of advisers.

"In the months before Obama's election, Burris spoke to the governor's current and former chief of staff, his chief of staff when Blagojevich was in Congress, his ex-deputy governor and political consultant, a labor leader who was Blagojevich's main conduit Downstate and the governor's brother, who tried to hit up Burris for fundraising help. Throughout it all, Burris made no secret of his interest in the Senate seat.

"Many of those Burris spoke to are part of the criminal case that federal authorities are shaping up against the former governor."

Lying Little Sneak
That's how Mark Brown describes Burris today. Look at his excerpt from Rep. Jill Tracy's questioning of Burris at the impeachment hearing.

Pundit Patrol
One of the oddest pieces of punditry during this whole affair was Laura Washington's U-Turn.

On November 10, Washington wrote that Burris was throwing his hat in the ring for the vacant Senate seat. "I can think of one reason it shouldn't be Burris," she wrote. "We already have an oversupply of egomaniacal blowhards in the Senate."

On January 5, she wrote that "Burris passes the credentials test with flying colors," and that "The Congressional Black Caucus must coalesce around Burris. Their response so far has been tepid."

As I've written before, I support the idea of naming an African American to the seat. But Washington seemed to have swallowed the idea that Burris was the only African American available.

She approvingly quoted Bobby Rush's claim that Burris had "impeccable credentials." Really?

"Then there's the Senate, the secretary of state and the president-elect. America's most exclusive club wants to maintain its pedigree. No members appointed by crooks, please."

Um . . . WTF?

"Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to certify the Burris appointment. It's mere paperwork, but White's stand gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid priceless cover. Does White want to be seen as a water-carrier?"

Jesse White was one of the few heroes of this saga. Sadly, Washington wasn't.

*

At least noted political analyst Stella Foster had the graciousness to not only (sort of) admit she was wrong, but to call on Burris to resign.

Geez, when you've lost Stella . . .

Mary Contrary
Forgiving just briefly that she actually wrote the line "And pundits are branding him as 'liar, liar, pants on fire," Mary Mitchell today made a salient point:

"Because the people who worked the hardest to put Burris in the Senate are pulpit pastors, it will be interesting to see what they do now. I mean, how do pastors justify a lie?"

The Beachwood Tip Line: One small step for mankind.



Permalink

Posted on February 17, 2009


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