Burris Contradicts Sworn Testimony On Talking To Blago’s Office

February 16, 2009 9:03 am

Over the weekend, the Rod Blagojevich mess got even messier.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Saturday that Sen. Roland Burris admitted, in a signed affidavit, to having talked with several Blagojevich aides about the open U.S. Senate seat. That admission appears to contradict Burris’ sworn testimony last month before the Illinois legislature.

In the affidavit, filed February 5th with a Democratic state lawmaker overseeing the impeachment proceedings, Burris acknowledged that he had talked about the seat to Robert Blagojevich, the governor’s brother, as well as several other of the governor’s advisers. Those conversations, according to the affidavit, occurred in October and November of last year — both before and after the seat became available thanks to Barack Obama’s presidential election victory. Burris wrote that Robert Blagojevich had asked Burris to make a political contribution to the governor — which Burris says he did not do.

That appears to contradict Burris’ testimony last month in front of state legislators, when he said that the only conversation he had had about the seat with a member of the governor’s circle had been over the summer with Lon Monk, a former top aide to Blagojevich. That testimony occurred while Burris was fighting an active campaign to be sworn in as a U.S. senator, after Blagojevich had picked him for the seat.

At a press conference yesterday, Burris said he hadn’t mentioned the other conversations in his testimony because he hadn’t been asked a direct question about Robert Blagojevich. “At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statement,” Burris said.

But according to the Associated Press, the transcript of Burris’s testimony shows that he was specifically questioned about Robert Blagojevich, and consulted with his lawyer before responding.

There are also questions about the actions of State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, the Democrat chairing the impeachment panel. Currie has said she received the affidavit shortly after Burris submitted it February 5th, but, believing it to be routine, she didn’t read it or show it to others on the committee.

Illinois Republicans are now calling for a perjury investigation into Burris. As for Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate, who could ultimately hold the key to Burris’ fate, they seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach. A spokesman for Senate Democratic chief Harry Reid told the AP, “Senator Reid is reviewing the affidavit and will await any action by Illinois legislative leaders after they review the matter.”

But in the short term, it’s not clear what can be done. According to one expert who spoke to the AP, the state legislature could pass a bill calling for a special election, arguing that Burris’ appointment was only temporary. But whether such a bill would gain sufficient support to pass isn’t known.

Blago’s fall was pretty quick. But cleaning up the mess he left may take a lot longer.

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