Burris defends himself as pressure builds

Calls for resignation, perjury investigation
February 15, 2009 8:30:03 PM PST
Sen. Roland Burris defended his testimony Sunday as a state Republican leader called on him to resign. Burris held a press conference Sunday afternoon and faced tough questions from the news media.

"At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statements," Burris said Sunday.

The controversy continues. Burris maintains that he did not perjure himself when he appeared before the House. He said he will not resign. He said he told no lies by omission. He blames the controversy over confusion brought by the Senate Republican leader.

"The answer was only those names. Had he come back and said, 'What about the other ones?' I would have happily answered that, but we went off [in another direction]," said Burris.

Representatives Jim Durkin and Tom Cross want an outside investigation into whether Burris perjured himself before the state House impeachment committee.

The calls have to do with Burris' admission that he was asked for fundraising help by the brother of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That request, which Burris says he declined, came before the then-governor appointed Burris to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

The disclosure contradicts Burris' testimony in January and is creating a new controversy.

With political pressure mounting, Roland Burris tried Sunday to explain away what appear to be inconsistencies in his story about what happened before then-Governor Blagojevich appointed him to the U.S. Senate.

"There is no type of hiding; this is completely honest. This is completely forthright, and this is the truth," said Burris.

An affidavit quietly filed February 5, 2009 with the head of the special House impeachment panel, Democratic Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, was released over the weekend and indicated that Blagojevich's brother, Robert, called three times asking Burris to host a fundraiser for the governor before Burris was appointed to the vacancy left by Barack Obama.

That contradicts testimony previously given by Burris. The newly filed document also acknowledges that Burris spoke with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris, and advisors Doug Scofield, John Wyma and Lon Monk about his interest in the Senate seat. But, while being questioned on January 8 by Republican Jim Durkin, Burris only admitted to talking to Monk.

"The fact is Mr. Burris not only swore under oath that he would tell the truth, but he submitted two affadavits to the committee, and each one of them is inconsistent with the other," said Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin who represents Western Springs.

Durkin and Republican House leader Tom Cross say they wonder if Burris deliberately tried to deceive the public, and they also want an independent investigation into whether Burris perjured himself before the committee because Republicans don't trust the Democrats to conduct an impartial probe.

"Clearly, there's no advantage for the Democrats or anyone to share with anyone," said Oswego Representative Cross.

A powerful member of Illinois' congressional delegation, Rep. Danny Davis, came to Burris' defense Sunday night. Davis called the situation unfortunate and said Burris is a man of integrity and honesty.

"As long as I've known Roland Burris, I've never known Roland to have anything to hide," said Representative Davis.

Davis says he thinks the Republicans are playing politics and are hoping to help their candidate in the 2010 election.

This latest controversy is the most recent over the Senate seat once held by Pres. Barack Obama. Political insiders say some Democrats saw Burris' appointment as an opportunity to hold on to seat, but now, Republicans may have an chance at reclaiming it.

"It will be used to fuel the next Senate race in which Republicans will be arguing over and over again that it is time for change," said analyst Alan Gitelson.

Both Cross and Durkin want the House impeachment committee to reconvene so they can find out if any other documents were filed or amended.

It is still unclear if perjury or contempt charges will be pursued against Burris.


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