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. Tim

    I can't believe this circus two a two-month break. The democrats, including Obama, should be proud that they have appointed such an honorable person to such an honorable position.

    I thought Blago had a personality disorder. Burris most certainly does. Anyone who defends him most certainly does. The rest of us just sit back and laugh. One day, the laughter will turn to anger.

    May 27, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. MatthewDetroit

    This I am sure is a racist ploy by the Republicans.
    It has to be their fault that Burris is dishonest.
    Cant we find some tape of Cheney or Rush Limbaugh to blame for this too. Come on Dems lets blame them.

    May 27, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. phoenix86

    Typical liberal democrat. This is not news.

    May 27, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. Really!?

    Chicago politicians all lie. Transparency is for speeches...

    May 27, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. VIJAY PATEL

    He should be removed from senate, He did the usual business as all do in Illinois, Includind President, who sold appointee foe endorsement, look at all who is running this country and who got appointment to his cabinet

    May 27, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. MatthewDetroit

    Sniffit,
    You LOVE to say that Cheney committed crimes against the country.
    You talk a lot but you have NO facts.
    Do you think your lover boy Barack would hold back for a second if Cheney did ANYTHING wrong.
    NO. He would not.
    The fact is Cheney was VP of the country and he did his job. Maybe well, Maybe not so well. But, the fact is he did not break any laws.
    Stop the crap and at least LIST the offenses if you have any.
    Everyone saw the same CIA reports about Iraq. Everyone voted except for pinko boy barack. Get the facts straight.

    May 27, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. dan in Tucson

    Ok then, lets hear them so we can decide for ourselves.

    May 27, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. MatthewDetroit

    Rahm was in on this as well. They were mad their girl did not get the seat.

    May 27, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  9. Tim

    I hope he holds another press conference. His last one was so entertaining. Make he can double up with Pelosi and hold a joint news conference. I'll go make the popcorn, let me know when it comes on.

    May 27, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. lou

    He's donated to Blago for years. But only the last one is supposed to count as corruption? That makes no sense. Still....he willingly took a tainted seat...had to expect some bad karma to come from it.

    May 27, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. Get Real Folks

    I am trying to figure out the guilt by association for President Obama. If memory serves me correctly, he did NOT the appointment of Roland Burris. So the mere fact that they are both from Chicago mean nothing.

    May 27, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  12. Gary

    The front page ticker headline read: Ex Bush appointee.....Where is that in the article?

    May 27, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Simmy

    Leave Senator Burris the heck alone......He's not going anywhere until his term is over.....I believe Chris Kennedy will probably win the Seat, but I still admire Sen. Burris for having the tenacity to hang in there.....If guilt by association was a true litmus test, Jesus would not be worthy, since He hung with Peter; a foul mouthed fisherman, Paul; a former murderer, Judas; the one that betrayed Him.......He who is without sin....Judge not.....

    May 27, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. Tom L

    @sniffit.
    No matter how much the left clamours, Cheney did not commit any war crimes. He will never be convicted of anything like that. You lose all credibility and make yourself out to be the partisan hack that you are when you make those claims. He didn't lie. The left really has to move on from that mantra. I don't really want to get into this, but Bill Clinton, the UN, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore and many other Democrats all said that the same things that Cheney said. As your wonderful organization says...move on!

    May 27, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Sam I Am

    Jimmy the Greek. Turn off Limbaugh. Put down the remote. Read a book. Blago is most certainly a criminal. Burris will probably go down too. Pelosi is a little addled, but has done nothing wrong. The dust up over Pelosi is just Republicans trying to focus your attention away from Cheney, who comitted war crimes. He has admitted it on national television during interview after interview. This BS about "we only did it to three guys" is like a murderer saying, "I only killed three guys". It is a CRIME. An INTERNATIONAL CRIME! We executed Nazis after WWII for doing exactly what Cheney authorized.

    Now stop whining. Your "side" lost. Get over it. The vast majority of Americans think you and people like you are a bunch of fools.

    May 27, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. Kim in AZ

    Is it just me, or are Burris and Steele twin sons of different mothers. They both have that ridiculous smile that says "I didn't just say what you just heard me say".

    May 27, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Ernesto

    He's not perfect, but he's there in the Senate. Surprise! Let the IL voters decide if he's worthy.

    May 27, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. Ted Tartaglia

    It appears that Senator Burris was less than truthful when questioned about this issue at the time of his appointment. Just another crooked politician!

    May 27, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Hammer

    In politics buying favors or selling a vote is not corruption, just the way politics is played. Corruption and lies are part of the game.

    May 27, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. willow

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Same old song and dance. They all lie. It's in their genetic make-up. We need to dump 'em all overboard and start over with a clean slate; but, that won't work 'cause there are no honest politicians!

    May 27, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. CNN Favors Democrats AGAIN

    Notice a couple things:
    The headline reads of Burris Claims, not the FBI's.
    AND
    There's no (D) next to Burris' name. If he were a Republican, you'd see the headline read... Bush Ex-Nominee Indicted, or something like that.

    Oh wait, that's already in their headline.

    CNN stinks of biasness. How about some partiality for a change??????

    May 27, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. LYNETTE IN CA

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

    The legislature specifically asked him if he spoke to Rod Blago, Rob Blago and a complete list of names. He said no, thereby, he commited perjury. End of story!

    May 27, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. David in West Virginia

    Senator Burris must come clean. If he pays for his senate seat, it should be a criminal offense and he held accountable by the Senate and State of Illinois.

    May 27, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. I used to like CNN but not anymore!

    The story below this is about a former Bush appointee( who's a Republican by the way ) being indicted on corruption charges and CNN convienently chooses not to allow comments to be posted! Yet when a Democrat tries to buy his way into Obama's vacant Senate seat they let the comments flow like water! Anyone else notice a double standard here?

    May 27, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. Jean 2

    I fell sorry for this to place himself in such a position, WHAT IS HE THINKING?????????

    May 27, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6