May 27th, 2009
12:28 PM ET
5 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. Sam in Houston

    the man is guilty as sin....

    May 27, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Liberal Democrats are Pathetic

    @Sniffit

    What crimes has Cheney been charged with? Oh that's right, it is just in your head. He hasn't been charged, so shut your pie-hole! You, like so many liberals on this site, spew lies and hate like no other.

    May 27, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. 3 Stooges

    What do Burris, Patterson and Corzine have in common? Three "dead ducks"! 'Nuff said.

    May 27, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Randall, Georgia

    Just another sleazy Democrat.

    May 27, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. Randall, Georgia

    Just another sleazy Democrat. Seems Illinois has more than it's share.

    May 27, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Jeff

    Isn't this a similar situation that brought down Richard Nixon?

    May 27, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. ANGIE

    roland burris is a crook and liar. hopefully he will save his time and money and NOT run in 2010.

    May 27, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Dale

    I am sure, somehow, we can spin this to make President Obama look bad... He's from the same state you know, and everyone in Illinois is exactly alike. ;)

    May 27, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. ketrout

    Everyone should know that Burris is guilty of trying to grease the palm of Blagojevich !

    I believe that someone should really look hard and deep about the way Chicago plays politics and how corrupt the politicians are.

    Burris needs to resign his seat and get out of politics! He should be ashamed of himself!

    May 27, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Scott in Atlanta

    Did I click on the "Politcal Ticker" or the "Crime" section of the CNN news site?

    May 27, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Jeff - Texas

    Sniffit, you need to lay off the paint thinner.
    In case you did not undertsnad all of Congress received the same information about Iraq as Bush and Cheney did. By the way did I mention Democrats controlled Congress. All of them voted to go to war. Secondly, Pelosi was briefed on interrogation methods being used.
    Burris is a liar just as all Chicago politicians are and that includes your president!!!!

    May 27, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. Norman

    As much as Chicago politics stink and as much as Burris and Blago stink the idea that $1,500 buys a Senate seat is absurd no matter what the conversations imply. Did Burris lie in his various testimonies? Probably. But what is the punishment? He'll never get re-elected anyway.

    May 27, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Gapeach1977

    You know, with all the controversy surrounding Blago and his trying to sell a US Senate seat to the highest bidder, if I were Burris I wouldn't have taken the appointment to the Senate in the first place. Everyone is going to assume that he was the lucky high bidder in this conspiracy. So even if these tapes reflect a transaction that is completely ethical and legal as Burris suggests, no one believes him. The shadow of conspiracy will forever follow him.

    May 27, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    So Burris promises a campaign contribution to Blago, and Blago appoints Burris to the Senate. Yet there's no quid pro quo? Get serious.

    May 27, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. SENSIBLE MIKE

    26 posts, that's all??

    wait where did all the liberal dems go? oh ya let's brush it under the rug for them. wouldn't want truth to get in the way of a good socialist agenda.

    May 27, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. SLM

    What a little weasel!! Blago and Burris are both out of the same old mold.

    May 27, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Truth hurts

    Welcome to the world of corruption!!

    Burris is not the first and won't be the last!! Corruption comes in all flavors and sizes. Corruption don't have the same face, party, religion or ethnic!! Let's clean it up but let's be fair with no double standards for no one!! Some of guys are killing me. Acting like Burris just committed a murder!! Did not get the same reaction when the white politicians are accused of a allege wrongdoing!!

    May 27, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. WI Cheesehead

    Roland Burris the little political capital you had was used up even before you were seated at the Senate. You are running on a deficit and that is political-suicide at best.
    Stop wasting our time.

    May 27, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. Terri

    How does Burris supposedly being an ex-Bush nominee have anything to do with this story? Biased a little are you CNN?

    May 27, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. Rush

    How is this an ex-Bush nominee? I'm confused.

    May 27, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Veronica

    Okay, Burris. You've had your fun playing Senator for a while, now, be a man for once in your life, and RESIGN – go the way of that colossal tool Blago.

    Democrats like you we do NOT need.

    May 27, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. ANAG, LOS ANGELES CA

    Why haven't they impeach him ?

    May 27, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  23. landshark

    Can you believe this guy............

    When Blagojevich was circling the tank and everyone who had any sense at all was getting out of the way this guy jumps in and here we are. Every black man for hundreds of miles was running from Blagojevich. We had just made big steps forward. Save one. No one wanted to be the one to go down in history as the one who took us back 3 steps. Guilty, of course he is. He should be put in jail for just being stupid!

    May 27, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Firechick907

    More trash coming out of Chicago...not surprising...

    May 27, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  25. Bob the Observer

    What amazes me most is that Burris could actually win the seat over Jesse Jackson, Jr, who obviously has a lot more money, organization, and poker chips to cash in. Jackson knows where the bodies are buried.

    Burris is no saint, but I'm beginning to think that maybe JJ Sr got Burris into the seat after the heat was on to take away the attention from the five million dollars he had invested in making sure Junior got the senate seat.

    Is there an honest politician in Illinois? Hear that buzzing sound? It's Lincoln spinning in his grave.

    May 27, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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