Burris Lied About Blagojevich Contact

Roland Burris now admits the he concealed the extent of his contact with ousted governor Rod Blagojevich.

Raising fresh questions about his appointment to Congress, Sen. Roland Burris admitted in a document released Saturday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother asked him for campaign fundraising help before the governor named Burris as Illinois’ junior senator. The disclosure reflects a major omission from Burris’ testimony in January when an Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked if he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

State Rep. Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee’s ranking Republican, told The Associated Press that he and House Republican Leader Tom Cross will ask Sunday for an outside investigation into whether Burris perjured himself.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also said he was reviewing the disclosure, the latest twist for Senate Democrats in Washington who only consented to seat Burris on the condition that there were no “pay to play” promises exchanged in the appointment.

Burris said he voluntarily gave the committee a Feb. 4 affidavit disclosing the contact with Robert Blagojevich because “there were several facts that I was not given the opportunity to make during my testimony to the impeachment committee.”  The affidavit, released by Burris’ office after it was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, said Robert Blagojevich called him three times — once in October and twice after the November election — to seek his fundraising assistance.  Robert Blagojevich’s attorney said his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by the FBI.

Burris, a Democrat like the former governor, said he told Robert Blagojevich he would not raise money because it would look like he was trying to win favor from the governor for his appointment. But he said he did ask the governor’s brother “what was going on with the selection of a successor” to Obama in the Senate and “he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions.”

It’s the second time Burris has changed his story. In an unsolicited affidavit to the impeachment committee on Jan. 6, Burris said he had only one limited conversation with the governor before accepting the Senate appointment.

I supported the seating of Burris when it looked like the Senate was going to illegally deny it to him, on the basis that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on his part.   That presumption now appears to be in question.

If Burris’ current story is true, the only thing he obviously did that was improper is witholding this information from investigators.  Being asked to hold a fundraiser isn’t a problem.  I’m not sure that even holding said fundraiser is illegal; lord knows that sort of thing is common in politics.   But the great Watergate lesson remains unheeded:  The coverup is worse than the crime.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    Three different sworn versions of the events; if he gets the Scooter treatment he will be convicted (and then have his sentence commuted).

  2. just me says:

    The Illinois legislature really should take measures to have a special election for this seat.

    The seat and how it was filled has a pretty large stench to it-either directly from Blago or from liars who apparently “forgot” things in order to get the seat.

  3. Bithead says:

    Just me:

    Given the recent Revelations of how politics are still conducted in Illinois, the presumption that any special action would be as they say “fair and balanced” seems unjustified.

    I think what really needs to change in this case is the presumption of the people of Illinois the Democrats are the way to go. This kind of incidents been going on for some time, and yet, they keep marching…. goosestepping… down that same well-trodden road to destruction.

    Given that facts seem to have very little influence on their voting choices I wonder if such change can ever be achieved.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    If I lied to investigators I could go to jail. We are seeing the emergence of a two class society.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    The Illinois legislature really should take measures to have a special election for this seat.

    I agree that the Illinois legislature should have taken steps to prevent this nightmare from occurring in the first place. However, I think it’s beyond their powers now to correct it since ex post facto laws are prohibited by the U. S. constitution. Consequently, anything the Illinois legislature did now would apply only to Burris’s successor.

  6. Drew says:

    The way the Tribune reported it this morning, he lied “under oath” (their words) to the impeachment committee, and is now changing his story.

    Did the impeachment committee have the same legal status as a prosecutor? I don’t know. If so, its purgery.

    Supporters of course tell us he’s just “amplifying his remarks.” Right. We all need to “amplyfy” after lieing sometimes, right? Some would say he better get out in front of this because someone is on the scent.

    Whether this has legal standing only time will tell. But only a dolt doesn’t understand he flat out lied. Of course, here in Illinois they all lie.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Drew, the problem being overlooked is the original affidavit. The problem with identifying corruption here was always the issue of intermediaries. Burris said in his first affidavit that the number of people on his staff that spoke with people on the Governor’s staff about the appointment was zero. Then in his personal testimony, he said one. Now, an affidavit says five, plus the Governor!

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Dave, the more I think about it, the less sure I am that the legislature cannot call a special election to continue out Burris’ term. Usually, courts invalidate retroactive laws only if they impact constitutional rights, the most likely are the rights guaranteed by the due process clause (property and liberty). But one does not have a due process right to an elected office. The Illinois Constitution doesn’t appear to say anything about the U.S. Senate seat; I think one would have to find some federal principle in jeopardy. It would be an interesting, perhaps litigious, question.

  9. Drew says:

    Just as a suspected. Someone got on the scent. It is now being reported that there may be a taped conversation with Blago’s brother. Ooopsey.

    Hence, a “new and improved” Burris affidavit.

    Some are giving him a pass, however they are the type who continue to be flummoxed over the meaning of “is,” and believed Obama when he says he investigated Rahmmy and he was clean.

    “Move along. Nothing happening here.” On your way……..shooshh

  10. Grewgills says:

    What are the legal consequences of lying to a congressional committee?
    Was he under oath? If so how does that effect the legal consequences?
    Investigate and follow the law. If that means he is gone, hold a special election.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Someone who lies in his subpoenaed testimony to a legislative investigatory committee has committed perjury and is subject to criminal punishment.


  12. Drew says:

    PD Shaw –

    On your last comment. That appears to be exactly where this is headed. Or at least where it should go.

    Let’s see if the powers that be – even here in Illinois – have the balls to do what is obviously the right thing.

    I’m waiting for the race card……..or for Obama to weigh in: “for the good of the country in these tough times……..” or even James Carville: its purgery, but its just about money, so its OK……

  13. Grewgills says:

    Wasn’t the testimony given in DC?
    If so it should be federal or DC law in play, right?
    I would imagine that the law would be similar. Republicans would like nothing better than to have a front page scandal with a Democratic senator and the Democrats don’t look to want to spend political capitol defending the man that they didn’t want to let in in the first place.

  14. Drew says:

    A concensus seems to be forming that they can’t prove pergury. This from better legal minds than mine….which means an awful lot of people.

    If Buris simply obfuscates it appears he can muddle through.