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Burris: Lawmakers at fault for not asking more

Sen. Roland Burris said lawmakers investigating his Senate appointment failed to "follow up with the questions" that could have revealed a conversation he had about fundraising for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris said Thursday that he did not mislead lawmakers investigating his Senate appointment because they failed to "follow up with the questions" that could have revealed a conversation he had about fundraising for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"It is not upon a person who's testifying to go out of his way on anything. It is the person who has to ask the questions," Burris said.

Burris has been under fire for his conversations with Blagojevich's brother Robert, who ran the ousted governor's campaign.

Details of a conversation last November came out Wednesday when a judge approved the release of a federal wiretap recording of a telephone call to the Senate Ethics Committee investigating Burris' appointment.

Taped call raises questions
On the call, Burris tells Robert Blagojevich about his interest in being appointed to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat and his desire to help the governor raise campaign money. Burris said he could not do any major fundraising without looking like he was trying to buy the appointment, but he promised to "personally do something" for Blagojevich.

The Chicago Democrat now said he was trying to stay on Blagojevich's good side and had no intention of helping him raise money. He did not make any donations to Blagojevich after the call.

Burris did not disclose the call in January when he testified before a special Illinois House committee considering the governor's impeachment. He blamed lawmakers for not getting the information out of him.

"I'm responding to questions. Why should I have to — in your estimation, in your assessment — go out of my way to answer questions when I was answering questions that were asked? Why didn't the impeachment committee follow up with the questions to ask me?" he said.

U.S. Senate leaders required Burris to testify as a condition of seating him in Washington. They wanted him to state under oath that he had done nothing improper.

Burris testified that he did not strike any improper deals with Blagojevich. When asked whether he had talked to any Blagojevich aide, Burris mentioned only one person: the governor's former chief of staff.

Burris denies any wrongdoing
Burris was later asked by a lawmaker if he had spoken to anyone else about the appointment, and Burris said he could not recall.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, who headed the Illinois House impeachment committee, said Burris could have done himself a favor by disclosing the call with Robert Blagojevich when he testified.

"I certainly wish he had. I think it would have been better for him all around," Currie said.

Burris was appointed after Blagojevich was arrested on charges that included trying to sell Obama's seat. Burris has denied wrongdoing.

Burris said Thursday he would reveal in the "very near future" whether he will run for a full Senate term.