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Judge to release Burris, Blago brother wiretap

May 26, 2009 7:55:06 PM PDT
A federal judge approved the release of a wiretap conversation between U.S. Senator Roland Burris of Illinois and the brother of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.The decision impacts the Congressional ethics investigation into Senator Burris' conduct. Sen. Burris can be heard on tape talking with Robert Blagojevich.

The senator is under fire over the circumstances of his appointment to fill the seat left vacant by President Barack Obama.

A lawyer for the senator said the conversation happened weeks before Burris was considered a serious candidate for the appointment. The attorney admitted Burris discussed raising money for the governor on the tape, but he ultimately refused to do so and, for that reason, the recording released Tuesday will clear his client of any wrongdoing.

"We want everything out. We don't have anything to hide," said Timothy Wright, attorney for Sen. Burris.

Wright counseled Burris as Burris was questioned by the Illinois House Impeachment Committee in January 2009 at the State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. The committee asked about Burris' contacts with the Blagojevich administration before being appointed to the U.S. Senate.

The audio tape and transcript that will likely be released by the federal court is part of the evidence gathered during the investigation of the ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich. It is a secretly recorded conversation last November between Burris and Robert Blagojevich, who headed his brother's campaign fund and was among five people indicted in the corruption case. Wright did not oppose the tapes' release to the Senate ethics committee. He says the evidence will prove that Burris was never involved in any "pay to play" schemes related to his appointment.

"Burris made it known he couldn't raise money for the governor and if in fact even though he said he would write a check, after that conversation he decide he couldn't even do that, that it would not be appropriate," said Timothy Wright, Burris attorney.

During his Springfield testimony, Burris denied any contacts with the governor's aides regarding the Senate seat. But weeks later, after his swearing-in, he filed an affidavit amending his testimony to include the conversation with Robert Blagojevich.

Illinois Senior Senator Dick Durbin said he was not surprised by the tapes' release and called it unfair to speculate about their content.

"You know, in fairness, let's wait until the tape is released, the transcript is released. And if there's a problem, let's let Senator Burris address it," said Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.

During the Durbin news conference, the senator revealed that he expects a secretly recorded conversation he had about the Senate seat with Rod Blagojevich to be released eventually.

Wright believes the release of the tape to senate investigators will close the investigation into the Burris appointment in a couple of weeks.

The federal court order will not release the tapes to the Sangamon County Prosecutor's Office, which is investigating a possible perjury charge against Senator Burris.

Charles has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.


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