Video: Burris finally a Senator

  1. Transcript of: Burris finally a Senator

    But, first, it`s my great honor to welcome U.S. Senator Roland Burris .

    Sir, it is an honor.

    SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: It`s my pleasure.

    MATTHEWS: We have -- we have watched your march to town.

    MATTHEWS: When did you know, sir, that you knew you had beaten the system, that you were going to be a United States senator , no matter what anyone thought in the Senate Democratic leadership, no matter what the press thought or anyone else ?

    BURRIS: I think it was Monday, Chris .

    I got a call from Senator Durbin indicating that he had the documents, and he thought that the lawyers were going to OK them. There was the secretary of state`s signature on the document, with the state seal . And all he had to was attach that to the appointment. And that then caused us to comply with rule two, which made me then eligible for the seat.

    MATTHEWS: Why did that Jesse White , the same name as the Maytag man, I remember...

    MATTHEWS: ... why did he finally change his mind and said, I will sign up and make it official that you are a senator?

    BURRIS: Well, no, that -- that was the Illinois Supreme Court decision. Once the Supreme Court issued its order that he didn`t have to sign, but it says, all you have to do, then, is go and asked for a certified copy of the document that he was required to put his signature and seal on. So, we asked for a certified copy . I think we paid 10 bucks for it. And then that took care of the problem.

    MATTHEWS: What is he like, a notary public, this guy?

    BURRIS: Well, no.

    MATTHEWS: If you`re secretary of state of a state, when you have to sign something, do you have to sign it like you`re told to sign it, like in " The Godfather ?" Your brains or your signature are going to be on that -- that paper?

    BURRIS: Well, in order to enroll and endorse all documents, then he`s supposed to sign them. But there is now law that said he has to sign.

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    BURRIS: And this is what the Illinois Supreme Court ruled, said whatever the governor signed is the law. And the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Roland Burris ` appointment is legal.

    MATTHEWS: OK.

    Let me ask you about Governor Blagojevich .

    BURRIS: Yes.

    MATTHEWS: Is he going to have a place to hang his hat when he comes to Washington ? Will you make his office -- your office available to him as a place to sort of hang out when he comes to D.C. ?

    BURRIS: Well, Governor Blagojevich...

    BURRIS: ... has a few problems. And I think he must get over the impeachment process, which will start very shortly in the Illinois Senate .

    And then, of course, he has to then have his trial. And, remember, Chris , as a former attorney general, you`re innocent until you`re proven guilty in this system.

    MATTHEWS: Do you believe he`s innocent?

    BURRIS: I don`t know -- that`s not -- that`s not for me to believe. Based on what I heard, I will not prejudge what the evidence -- the information that`s come forward. I will not prejudge that.

    MATTHEWS: Were you surprised when, after all the -- all the talk and evidence, perhaps -- you could call it evidence because it was in the U.S. attorney `s complaint -- of how he was trying to deal that job, he was trying to make something out of it, the -- the seat that you`re now filling, that he didn`t ask you for anything, he just gave you the seat; he said, I`m going to give this because of your record, and you`re the right person for this job, that he never said, hey, I want some help on fund- raising or something like that?

    BURRIS: Well, I never talked to the governor, other than the time that he offered me the appointment.

    MATTHEWS: But he never said, here`s the deal?

    BURRIS: Absolutely not, no. He saw nothing from me.

    As a matter of fact, if he is -- his behavior, if what the indictment -- I`m sorry -- I mean, the charges are stating, if those are proved to be true, those actions are reprehensible.

    MATTHEWS: Yes.

    BURRIS: You cannot sell a United States Senate seat.

    MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s a crime?

    BURRIS: I`m pretty sure there`s federal laws against that.

    MATTHEWS: Yes.

    BURRIS: I mean, there`s something -- but that`s what they`re going to have to prove.

    And we must remember, now, we cannot convict him in the press or convict him in the court of public opinion .

    MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s guilty of a crime by simply sitting in an office, plotting something with his staff guy? Is that a crime, sitting there talking about it, and having it recorded, before you -- if he doesn`t make a deal with anybody, if he doesn`t cut a deal with anybody, is it a crime just to think about it ?

    BURRIS: Well, there -- no, you have to take some type of action. It`s called a conspiracy.

    MATTHEWS: Right. That`s what I thought.

    BURRIS: So, unless you move to make some type of act or step to carry out the crime, but you don`t complete the crime, then you have a possible charge for conspiracy.

    MATTHEWS: So, it is possible he can get off?

    BURRIS: Well, that`s what really I`m saying. We must be, you know, very careful about convicting someone before he`s gone through our system of a trial by jury or a trial, you know, by a judge.

    MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about your political call. Have you decided to run for election as a senator yet?

    MATTHEWS: Have you decided?

    BURRIS: Chris , I`m trying to get my Senate legs under me. I have been reading rules, and trying to get staff together, and trying to figure out how we`re going to handle all these expenses that have come out of my pocket, because...

    MATTHEWS: Really?

    BURRIS: ... because we had to advance all this money, all the staff that was out here. I had to put all that up front. And then now...

    MATTHEWS: You have to pay Kurt Schmoke out of your own money?.

    BURRIS: Well, no, no, now, that was my and that was volunteer.

    But, yes, you cannot have any type of voluntarily legal services , because then that`s an illegal contribution.

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    BURRIS: So, they have to give me a bill. I will have legal bills, substantial legal bills, because I had one lawyer working on this for about three weeks.

    MATTHEWS: Do you like living in a job where you can`t even have somebody buy you a hamburger? I mean, that is what it`s like being a senator these days. There are so many rules involved with ethics that it`s -- you`re being watched. You know this.

    BURRIS: And, Chris , you know that that would not have come about if somebody hadn`t screwed up earlier.

    And those rules and regulations come to try to protect the taxpayers and keep those politicians who would be dishonest to try to halfway keep them honest.

    MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the big picture of next Tuesday. In this city well, I don`t think there`s ever been -- well, there was certainly was the inauguration of Lincoln and Roosevelt and I guess you could throw in Kennedy and Reagan . This is one of the big ones .

    What does it mean to you?

    BURRIS: It is so personal to me, Chris , you will never, ever know.

    I mean, I have been to a lot of inaugurations. I was at Senator Kennedy `s inauguration when I was a law student out here in 1960 at Howard . And I went to Carter`s inauguration and Clinton `s inaugurations.

    But I never did dream, number one, that I would to go to the inauguration of an African-American president, never did dream that I would know that president personally, and never did dream that he would come from the great state of Illinois . My state is great.

    MATTHEWS: Did you see Obama coming up? Did you see it...

    BURRIS: I saw...

    MATTHEWS: ... this bug he had, this amazing -- not bug -- this amazing charisma?

    BURRIS: You know what I was talking to Obama about when he ran for Congress our 1st Congressional District congressman, Bobby Rush ? I was upset with him. I said, why you are going that? You`re going to ruin your political career. You have a bright career.

    You -- no, I was -- I was just -- I had run for governor, and I lost, I think. I said, you can be attorney general and then go and be governor of Illinois . Barack , why are you doing it?

    And he said, well, Roland , I have to do what I have got to do.

    So, I backed away from it, and he lost that race. But then he comes in a few years later and come back and run for the Senate . And, of course, that gentleman must be -- something must be -- what do you say, the stars are lining up for him?

    MATTHEWS: Well, he is lucky, because if he got to be the congressman from the South Side of Chicago , he would have had to be somewhere on the left politically to represent that district, and he would have never won statewide.

    BURRIS: Yes. Well, that`s also a problem.

    And guess what, though. You ever seen a candidate who come up with -- in a primary, there was a gentleman who had a sealed divorce, and that got him in trouble, and the Republican nominee had a sealed divorce, and he had to get out of the race? I mean...

    MATTHEWS: And along came Alan Keyes .

    BURRIS: And along came the guy from Maryland , which was -- which was a -- I mean, I guess he`s an educated man, but he was a sideshow coming to Illinois in that fashion, and carrying on. It was an embarrassment.

    MATTHEWS: How long is this luck going to hold?

    BURRIS: Well, it`s going to hold greatly, because he is going to do great things for America .

    I`m confident that Obama will be able to bring us out of this mess in his first term. And you will see the economy being turned around. And 20 -- 20 -- what is it, 2012 ? And we will be then on in his second term and see the prosperous America that Bill Clinton gave us in the `90s will also be Obama in the early `20s.

updated 2/14/2009 6:18:49 PM ET 2009-02-14T23:18:49

Sen. Roland Burris admitted Saturday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother asked him for a campaign contribution before the governor appointed Burris to the Senate.

The disclosure is at odds with Burris' testimony in January when an Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked if he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

State Rep. Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee's ranking Republican, told The Associated Press that he and House Republican Leader Tom Cross would seek an outside investigation into whether Burris perjured himself.

Burris issued a statement Saturday saying he voluntarily gave the committee a Feb. 4 affidavit disclosing the contact with Robert Blagojevich because "there were several facts that I was not given the opportunity to make during my testimony to the impeachment committee."

The affidavit, released Saturday by Burris' office, said Robert Blagojevich called him three times — once in October and twice after the November election — to seek his fundraising assistance.

Robert Blagojevich's attorney said his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by the FBI.

Asked about selection for Senate
Burris, a Democrat like the governor, said he told Robert Blagojevich he would not raise money because it would look like he was trying to win favor from the governor for his appointment. But he said he did ask the governor's brother "what was going on with the selection of a successor" to Obama in the Senate and "he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions."

It's the second time Burris has changed his story. In an unsolicited affidavit to the impeachment committee on Jan. 6, Burris said he had only one limited conversation with the governor before accepting the Senate appointment.

Video: Blagojevich: Ouster was 'un-American' Then, appearing before the committee Jan. 8, he said that last summer he told former Blagojevich aide-turned-lobbyist Lon Monk that he was interested in the post.

The governor appointed Burris, a former state attorney general, to Obama's Senate seat on Dec. 30, three weeks after federal agents arrested Blagojevich on a complaint alleging he had tried to trade the appointment for campaign cash or a high-paying job. The House impeached Blagojevich and the Senate removed him from office on Jan. 29.

Senate Democrats in Washington initially said they would not seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich, but eventually relented. One condition of their acceptance was Burris' testimony before the Illinois House committee.

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Early contacts
State House impeachment committee chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat, said she had received the affidavit but had not had time to compare it to Burris' testimony.

The affidavit also discloses for the first time that Burris told former Blagojevich advisers Doug Scofield and John Wyma of his interest in the post at a fundraiser in June, and later with Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who was arrested with Blagojevich on Dec. 9.

Scofield, Wyma and Harris were among the Blagojevich associates Burris was asked about in his Jan. 8 testimony by state Rep. Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee's ranking Republican.

In response, Burris said he had spoken only to Monk.

"This wasn't a couple of questions that I can understand someone may forget, it goes way beyond that," Durkin said Saturday. "To say that he wasn't given the opportunity to explain himself is a load of B.S."

Durkin said he doesn't trust majority Democrats in the General Assembly to conduct a fair investigation into whether Burris perjured himself. But he said he doesn't know yet who should conduct the inquiry.

A log of Harris' calls released to The Associated Press by the governor's office indicates Burris called Harris four times in November — the last time on Nov. 26, when the log indicates the two spoke. Burris' affidavit says he had called Harris to recommend his nephew for a state job and during the conversation asked about the Senate seat.

A spokeswoman for Burris said he would not make himself available for interviews Saturday.

Robert Blagojevich's lawyer, Michael Ettinger, said his client contacted Burris in October to ask him to host a fundraiser for his brother because Burris had contributed in the past, but Burris said he didn't want to commit before the election. Ettinger said the subject of the Senate seat wasn't raised.

Ettinger said Robert Blagojevich remembers only one other conversation in November from the governor's campaign office, which the FBI had wiretapped at the time. He said his client confirmed Burris' account that he declined the fundraiser because of the potential conflict.

But he also told Ettinger no one on his brother's staff had ever mentioned Burris as being interested in the seat.

Glenn Selig, a spokesman for the former governor, did not have an immediate comment.

In explaining his incomplete testimony, Burris said in the affidavit he recalled mentioning Monk "but was then asked another question and did not mention anyone else."

His lawyer, Timothy Wright III, said in a cover letter that Burris answered "truthfully and to the best of his recollection," but that the "fluid nature" of the questioning and a review of the transcript showed Burris that he "was unable to fully respond to several matters."  

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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