May 27th, 2009
12:28 PM ET
6 years ago

Burris insists secret recordings show no corruption

Roland Burris says that secretly recorded conversations between himself and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagovich's brother show no corruption.
Roland Burris says that secretly recorded conversations between himself and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagovich's brother show no corruption.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) – Embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris insisted Wednesday that recordings of secretly taped conversations between himself and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother show no evidence of corruption in his U.S. Senate appointment.

Burris also reiterated his assertion that he did not commit perjury in previous testimony regarding his involvement in an alleged "pay-for-play" scheme to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Burris's denials came one day after a federal judge approved sending to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee recordings of the conversations, which took place before Burris was appointed.

The recordings, which show Burris offering to cut a check to then-Gov. Blagojevich's campaign, were requested by the Ethics Committee as part of an investigation into Burris' appointment and seating.

"I was truthful when I testified that at no time did I take any part in pay-to-play while lobbying for the Senate seat," Burris told a group of reporters in Chicago.

"Did I want to be appointed to the Senate seat? Yes I did. ... Did I try to buy the seat? Never."

Burris added that while he wanted to keep a previous commitment "to make a personal contribution" to Blagojevich, he ultimately did not "because of the perception of impropriety that might arise."

Burris said he expects "the media and the public to review every word of the transcript (of the recordings) in context. At the end of the day, I expect both to judge me fairly ... It is my belief the transcripts help set the record straight and should settle this issue once and for all."

During a November 18 conversation, Burris tells Robert Blagojevich, "I know I could give him a check" - then adds that he may make the contribution under the name of his attorney, Timothy Wright, "cause Tim's not looking for an appointment."

Burris then promises that he'll write the check by December 15.

Throughout the talk, Burris presses Blagojevich to tell him how he can help with the campaign without looking like he bought the appointment.

"I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment," he says.

"I hear ya. No, I year ya," Robert Blagojevich responds.

"And, and if I do that, I guarantee you that, that will get out and people said, 'Oh, Burris is doing a fundraiser' and, and then Rod and I both gonna catch hell. ... And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it."

Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that the check would have been for $1,500, and denied that Burris' promise to write the check was part of any "pay-to-play" scheme.

"Fifteen-hundred dollars? Come on," Wright told the paper. "Burris had been a fund-raiser in years past. This had nothing to do with pay-to-play."

Burris, whom the Democratic governor appointed days before he was impeached by the Illinois legislature in January, never mentioned the conversations while testifying before the legislature during the impeachment trial.

Burris said Wednesday he didn't tell the legislature about the conversations because he wasn't asked.

According to Burris staffers and an affidavit obtained by CNN in February, Robert Blagojevich solicited Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Burris was named to his Senate seat. However, in the affidavit, Burris said he refused to contribute to Blagojevich or to assist in fund-raising for him.

Rod Blagojevich, who was removed from office earlier this year, has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges. A federal grand jury indicted him in April on 16 felony counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements to investigators.

Blagojevich denies all charges.

The indictment also charges some of Blagojevich's closest aides and advisers, including his brother, Robert, in a wide-ranging "scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of honest government," according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Robert Blagojevich also pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the indictment, the governor schemed with others in 2002 - even before he took office - to use his position to make money, which they were to share after he left office.

Among other allegations, Blagojevich is accused of working with others to figure out how he could make money by appointing Obama's replacement.

The indictment says he believed an associate of someone referred to in the indictment as "Senate Candidate A" had offered $1.5 million in campaign contributions in exchange for the appointment.

Blagojevich had asked his brother to meet with an associate of "Senate Candidate A" and say that some of those contributions needed to come through before he made the appointment - but the meeting was canceled after a newspaper article reported that Blagojevich had been recorded talking about selling the seat.

A lengthy FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps trying to profit from the Senate vacancy.

The indictment said that Blagojevich communicated "directly and with the assistance of others" with people he believed were in contact with Obama - trying to gain political favor by possibly appointing someone the president-elect supported.

He ultimately appointed Burris, the Democratic former state comptroller and attorney general, who was seated in the Senate despite protests from the chamber's Democratic leaders. Those leaders said a special election should be called because of the controversy over the appointment.

If convicted, Blagojevich would face up to 20 years in prison for each of the 15 most serious charges in the indictment, and five years on a single charge of making false statements.

- CNN's Katherine Wojtecki contributed to this story


Filed under: Roland Burris
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. vegage

    This is clear like crystal water, they had an agreement. This man is really embarrassing the Democratic Party, he should be expulsed.

    May 27, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. The People Rule

    I know Roland was glad when the spotlight was off of him. Welcome back to the spotlight Roland. I too am a Democrat, but stank is stank and Roland is stank. Peeewwwwww! Did he honestly think folk would forget? NOT!

    May 27, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Matt

    There are corrupt politicians in all parties. Get over it. Let's hope that Obama continues to trend towards further visibility and transparency into government so we can root them out and try them in front of a JURY OF THEIR PEERS. Let us also be patient and not jump to conclusions based on preliminary evidence that HAS NOT BEEN PRESENTED IN COURT.

    May 27, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. Bubba

    Sentence him to twenty visits to Blago's barber. Better yet, bring back the public stocks and pillory just for this one case?

    May 27, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. New Day

    yeah, I gotta agree with the Reps on this one. String this guy up by his thumbs!!! While ur at it, do the same to Blago, Pelosi, Reid, Boehner, Cantor and Bachman.

    And then, when ur done, waterboard Cheney, Rush, Hannity, Olbermann and Shuster on PPV and donate the money to balance the budget!!!!

    May 27, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. Charles Atlanta

    I told you so. He was the highest bidder.

    May 27, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. The People Rule

    Daniel from Indiana, go straight to HELL and do not pass GO! What a creep. If that's the case, maybe we should paint you with the same brush as Newt, Rush, Ken Doll and Cheney.....eh?

    May 27, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  8. Randolph Carter

    I think Svengoolie should be the senator from Illinois. He's a man of integrity. And he's got the rubber chicken shield to protect us from terrorists.

    May 27, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. Enough

    Why is this man crawling out from under his rock? Another lying Democrat, just when we forgot all about him.

    May 27, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. SLM

    Yeah, and Blago didn't lie either!! another corrupt Illinois politician, they just don't breed good honest politicians from that state.

    May 27, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. The Party of NO is only “pro-life” so they will be able to kill the “babies” 18 years later as soldiers in an elective religious war.

    Sorry, Senator Burris but the tape I heard on MSNBC and your angry responses that did not answer the reporter's questions did not sound very good for you.

    Instead of yammerin' on about context, maybe you should have just answered the questions.

    May 27, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. Bill

    Republicans Failed Last 8 Years.

    Still they Continue to Speak on what they Failed..... SHAME.

    May 27, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  13. NObama is our downfall

    The REPUBLICAN party must be chomping at the bit for the 2010 elections

    With the COMPLETE INEPTITUDE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY (Blago, Burris, NObama, Pelosi, etc), the Republicans are going to destroy the libtards in 2010.

    May 27, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Philip Grant

    Reading the posts from Jimmy the Greek and Mississippi Mike cracks me up. I mean you've got to be kidding me???

    Jimmy the Greek, show me the flag covered coffins for a B.S. war that Burris, Blago, and Pelosi are responsible for and then you can talk.

    And, as for Mississippi Mike, your state has a history of the most hideous and vulgar type of political corruption. Just ask any black person over fifty years old about the beatings, rapes, burnings, hangings, and the NOT GUILTY verdits. You need to sit quitely in a corner and reflect on the sins of your fathers.

    May 27, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  15. J.P.

    Left or right... Dem or Rep... Lib or Con... Red or Blue...

    Stop arguing and stop being played... ALL of us.

    Vote for your party's challenger in the primary. Send your incumbent packing and maybe we can actually get something done in this country.

    DON'T RE-ELECT ANYONE!
    Incumbent Dump – 2010

    535 people picked at random by similarity of favorite ice-cream flavor couldn't possibly do a worse job than the current Congress.

    May 27, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. Post always rejected by CNN

    Who are the republicans going to try to throw out of the senate next. I guess they are trying their darnest to get that 59, which should be 60 majority out.

    Look what they and the butthole governor of Minnesota are doing to the people of Minnesota. We cant' get our other DEMOCRATIC senator seated because coleman is whining and moaning and trying to get to the supreme court so they will appoint him they way they appointed bush. And Phewlenty, who is supposed to sign his certification won't. I guess he is showing the asinine actions he would have if he got to the white house where he THINKS he is going.

    But when the people of Minnesota get their impeachment proceedings going he won't be able to go anywhere.

    May 27, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. No Hillary = No Obama

    You know, Chicago politics is so corrupt in general that it would be such as surprise if Obama wasn't touched by it in some way.

    May 27, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Chris Cantwell, Bradenton FL

    At first glance, it's shameful that you are in congress, but then again you fit in pretty well with the rest of the bastards.

    May 27, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  19. Bubba

    Let me mention that I tend to vote Democrat myself; all the more reason to kick this buffoon around. I guess he's really a member of the other party at heart, as you Republicans always say when one of you is caught doing something crooked.

    May 27, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  20. T

    Jimmy the Greek: I think you got it wrong....The Rep., are the one
    Can’t tell the truth. I don’t think no one is crying about Chaney he
    Creates his own mess. This is the same old song Burris Pelosi
    and etc. Get something with some merit to talk about. Now Burris
    Is someone yet to be desire. He played the game like everyone
    else but he was playing on the wrong court. There are comments about Chicago
    Politician but lets look at the big picture. What about southern Politicians
    HOW ABOUT TX.

    May 27, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The GOP is being labelled as the Party Of No. Well after looking at the voting records on govtrack.gov, I see why. They say No to EVERYTHING. The troubling vote that disturbed me was Kathleen Sebellius' nomitaion for HHS. Over 90% of the republicans voted nay. As if they had a better nominee for the job. They are going to vote themselves right out of power.

    May 27, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. minnie

    Daniel Cabrerro,

    You are so right. You hit the nail on the head. Maybe someday people will wise up to O bama.

    May 27, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. Dave

    almost time to go Libertarian as you can not trust...

    1) Republicans to control spending and limit the size of the Federal Government
    2) Democrates to do anything that really benefits our country
    3) Basically any Politian becuase they are all the same, does not matter one bit if Republican or Democrat as each side has it's base that each side plays to and lies to about what it will do in power, then do the opposite

    Best thing for this country is for every American to vote in the next round of elections and vote OUT OF OFFICE every single member of Congress – replace current Rep/Dem's with new Rep/Dem's, this would be the best thing for our country

    May 27, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Paul from Phoenix

    I blame Bush.

    May 27, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. Once You Vote Black

    I dont think they can prove anything. Many of you are just agains him because he is Black. You guys are making your statements based on what you hope he said.

    May 27, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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