'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, May 27

Guests: Jim Warren, Bertha Coombs, Chris Matthews, Sen. Roland Burris, Lynn Sweet, Brent Wilkes, Wendy Long, Howard Fineman, Jeanne Cummings

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Trouble on tape.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

The next voice you hear.  What‘s going on in Chicago?  We‘ve just got an FBI tape out late this afternoon of a conversation between the brother of Rod Blagojevich and Senator Roland Burris, which includes the following: A clear statement by Burris that he wants the appointment to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, a clear statement by the governor‘s brother that he wants Burris to raise money for the governor, a clear statement by Burris that he will give to the governor‘s campaign personally and hold a fund-raiser to raise more funds under the name of his law partner, a clear statement by Burris that if he raised money for the governor but didn‘t get the appointment to fill President Obama‘s Senate seat, he‘d be in a dilemma with his own money people.

Senator Roland Burris will be on the line with me in an exclusive interview to explain those statements which are on the FBI tape.  We‘ll also have two street-wise Chicago reporters joining us here to vet the taped conversation between Rob Blagojevich, the governor‘s brother, and Senator Burris and look at the legal and political challenges they create for the senator.

Plus, the battle over Sotomayor.  Both liberal and conservative interest groups are out there agitating for and against President Obama‘s Supreme Court pick.  We‘ve got two to fight it out here.

We begin with Senator Roland Burris.  Senator Burris, thank you very much for joining us.  You‘ve been on the show before.  You‘re on the phone from Decatur, Illinois.  Let me play for you an audio clip where Governor Blagojevich‘s brother, Robert, talks to you about building up his war chest—this is back last October—and you express interest in getting Obama‘s Senate seat.  Let‘s listen.


ROB BLAGOJEVICH, BROTHER OF GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH:  We‘ve had a number of conversations about, you know, anything you might be able to do, you and Fred might be able to do here before the end of the year for Rod.  Again, we‘re trying to get as much as we can in his war chest so that when he has to, you know, disclose in January...


MATTHEWS:  Senator, what was that conversation about?

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS (via telephone):  Well, Chris, definitely, it was a normal fund-raising conversation.  I had supported the governor in previous fund-raising events, and his brother was fund-raising.  That‘s what they do in terms of getting prepared for his run for reelection.  And I had not only supported him, but during that period, I had supported other candidates.

I told the governor‘s brother when he called earlier to call me back after November because I was supporting other candidates for the November election.  And he called me back after the election.  And of course, by that time, I had become very concerned about my interest in getting appointed to the Senate seat, as well as, you know, how could I help him with the fund-raising.

And I had come to the conclusion, Chris, that that was not really a wise thing to do, that I could not give money to the governor because I was interested in being appointed to the Senate seat.  So on the bottom line, there was no money ever given, nor was there any money ever raised.

MATTHEWS:  You told me back in October—rather, January 16th on this program, on the record, Senator, that they‘d never sought anything from you with regard to the Senate seat.  And here we have on the tape here a long conversation with the governor‘s brother, asking you to raise money and you talking about it at length.  How can you say that they never sought anything from you?

BURRIS:  No, Chris, in terms of that situation, that question never did come up in terms of what the governor was looking for from me.  I mean, I stated unequivocally to them that it would be a conflict.  I even said, without knowing that this was being taped or knowing anything about pay-to-play, that if I gave any money to the governor, it would look like I was trying to buy the seat.  So based on that, we had really no type of improprieties, no type of inconsistency.


BURRIS:  And so that—sure.

MATTHEWS:  Let me get the statement.  Are you saying that the governor‘s brother never asked you to raise money?

BURRIS:  Oh, sure—yes, he asked me to raise money.


BURRIS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that the governor‘s—that you didn‘t tell the governor‘s brother that you wanted to be appointed to the Senate?

BURRIS:  I most certainly did.  That‘s where the conflict come in. 

And so what I did not want to do...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s a conflict.  Here‘s how you explain the conflict.  Let‘s listen to the clip here, where you talk about being in a dilemma, wanting to help the governor, but you have this dilemma.  And here‘s how you explain it on the FBI tape.

BURRIS:  Sure.


BURRIS:  I mean, I‘m trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment.

ROB BLAGOJEVICH:  I hear you.  No, I hear you.

BURRIS:  And if I do that, I guarantee you that that will get out and people will say, Oh, Burris is doing a fund-raiser, and then Rod and I are both going to catch hell.  And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it.  If I don‘t get appointed, then my people who I‘m trying to raise money from are going to look at me and say, yes, what was that all about, Roland?  I mean, so Rob, I‘m in a—I‘m in a—a dilemma right now, wanting to help the governor.


MATTHEWS:  Why would it be a dilemma for you to raise money for Blagojevich and not get the Senate seat if there‘s not a quid pro quo, a pay-to-play deal here?

BURRIS:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Why would it be a dilemma for you, Senator, not to get the Senate seat after raising money for Blagojevich?

BURRIS:  Chris, it‘s a very simple process.  I was always supportive of the governor.  What I was torn from is the fact that I couldn‘t help the governor, and if I helped him  it would create a dilemma for me because if I helped him and then I got appointed—and by the way, I wasn‘t even on the governor‘s radar.  I didn‘t get a—the governor wasn‘t even thinking about me.  I wasn‘t number one, number two, number three, number four.  And Chris, if the governor had not been arrested, I never would have been appointed to that seat.  I did not know that.

MATTHEWS:  But why is it a dilemma—again, Senator, with all respect...

BURRIS:  But Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... why is it a dilemma for you if you don‘t get a Senate seat after you raise money for this guy?

BURRIS:  No, no.  That doesn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Why is that a dilemma...

BURRIS:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... if it‘s not a quid pro quo?

BURRIS:  No, it‘s not a quid pro quo.  The dilemma was the fact that I wanted to try to help the governor and I couldn‘t because I wanted to get appointed to the seat.  That‘s clear.  If I helped him, then I would be involved in some quid pro quo.


BURRIS:  But I wanted to help him and I couldn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  You said that—no, there‘s no doubt that you said that earlier.  But this is how you conclude your dilemma.  “And if I don‘t get appointed, then my people who are trying to raise money—I‘m trying to raise money from are going to look at me, yes, what‘s that all about Roland?  I mean, Rob, I‘m in a dilemma.”

In other words if you don‘t get the job that you raised the money for, your people are going to be mad at you because they didn‘t get the Senate seat you were supposed to get out of this deal.  How is that not incriminating?

BURRIS:  Chris, let me tell you simply this.  The people who I talked to and the only people I ever raised money for with the governor was my partner inside the office.  The most we ever gave the governor was $5,000.


BURRIS:  So there‘s no way in the world you‘re going to buy a seat.  And I was promising to send my check to the governor, as I had done always...


BURRIS:  ... was send him a thousand dollars.  Now, if you think I could buy a Senate seat for a thousand dollars, I think that was (INAUDIBLE) mistaken.

MATTHEWS:  No, but you went further.  Here you are...

BURRIS:  But...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, Senator.  Here you are, going further than the personal money.  Here you are, promising personal money...

BURRIS:  But that was a—that was a...

MATTHEWS:  ... and also promising a blind fund-raiser using the name of your law partner to avoid being discovered and being involved in this.  Here you are, talking about what sounds like a conspiracy to hide the money you‘re getting for the governor.  Here it is, your words.


BURRIS:  I know I could give him a check.


BURRIS:  Myself.


BURRIS:  And—and my law partner, we were going to try to do something at the law firm.  I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright, OK, because Tim is not looking for an appointment, OK?



MATTHEWS:  So you‘re going to do a fund-raiser through the law firm using your partner‘s name.  Isn‘t that covering up your involvement in buying a Senate seat?

BURRIS:  No.  What I—what that word should have said that, you know, Tim Wright would give a fund-raiser, not—it would be in his name.  He would give the fund-raiser, not me.  But guess what?  Tim Wright had already said that he could not give a fund-raiser.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but you don‘t understand...

BURRIS:  I was—I was—Chris, I was only placating—placating the governor‘s brother.  So that‘s all I was doing.  There was no...

MATTHEWS:  Well, your problem here, Senator, is this is on tape, and it says, “I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright.”  In other words, you‘re doing the fund-raiser.  You‘re raising the money.  You‘re shaking the trees for money for the governor in his reelection.  You‘re coming up with the money, but you‘re going to use the name of your partner.  That sounds like a conspiracy to withhold your identity in this fund-raising scheme.

BURRIS:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what it looks like to a person listening to this.

BURRIS:  Yes, but guess what, Chris?  Number one, I did not raise a dime because I knew I couldn‘t raise any money.  And after I hung up the telephone from the conversation, I said I couldn‘t even give him a check.


BURRIS:  I couldn‘t even send my own check.


BURRIS:  So based on that, there‘s no violation of any law, no conspiracy here...


BURRIS:  ... of anything of any magnitude because my partner had already stated, you know, on the second telephone call with him that we could not give any funds because we were interested in getting appointed to the seat, and if we did that, it would look like we‘re trying to buy the seat.  But that‘s...


MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the problem where it looks like here—this is further on in the conversation, which was taped by the FBI.  This is last October.  And here you are later on in this conversation between yourself...

BURRIS:  That was in November, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, back in November.  Here you are, back talking to the governor‘s brother, where you sort of sum up the two things that are interesting to you here.  Let‘s listen to what you put this together.


BURRIS:  And God knows, number one, I want to help Rod.  Number two, I also want to—you know, hope I get into consideration to get that appointment.


MATTHEWS:  Well, doesn‘t that sound to the average juror that you‘re saying you‘re raising money for the governor and you want the Senate seat as a quid pro quo?  Why would you say, number one, I want to help the governor, your brother, number two, I also—I hope to get this seat in the U.S. Senate?  How does that not sound like an offer to raise money to get a job?

BURRIS:  Because, Chris, I knew that I had already said before that that I could not raise any money because I was interested in getting the seat.  And that‘s what‘s clear here.  I could not raise money.  And that‘s where my dilemma came in.  I wanted to help the governor, but because I wanted the seat, I couldn‘t do it.  That‘s what that means.

MATTHEWS:  No, but...


BURRIS:  ... and I did not do it, Chris.  I did not do it.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know.  I know.  I‘m only talking about what you said.  I‘m only—all I have here is the taped conversation.


MATTHEWS:  You said there would be a dilemma if he didn‘t deliver the job after you raised the money.  If you say it‘s a dilemma for you not to get the job that you raised the money for, that is another strong indication that it was deal.


MATTHEWS:  ... quote your words here.  If—let me—I‘m want to play this tape for you one more time, Senator...

BURRIS:  Sure.  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... and give you one more shot at this because everybody‘s going to read this in the paper tomorrow and hear this on TV tonight.  Here‘s you, explaining why you have a problem raising an open fund-raiser for Blagojevich‘s brother—so in other words, doing this in the open—but why you‘d also have a problem if they shut you down and didn‘t give you the job after you raised the money.  This is your further wrinkle here.  It looks like you‘re squeezing this guy.  Here it is.


BURRIS:  I mean, I‘m trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment.

ROB BLAGOJEVICH:  I hear you.  No, I hear you.

BURRIS:  And if I do that, I guarantee you that that will get out and people will say, Oh, Burris is doing a fund-raiser, and then Rod and I are both going to catch hell.  And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it.  If I don‘t get appointed, then my people who I‘m trying to raise money from are going to look at me and say, yes, what was that all about, Roland?  I mean, so Rob, I‘m in a—I‘m in a—a dilemma right now, wanting to help the governor.


MATTHEWS:  It just seems, Senator, like you‘re covering yourself in the beginning of that comment, and then you‘re getting to the point of squeezing the guy, saying, Buddy, if I raise you this money, I better well get the seat, because I don‘t know how else to read it.  I‘m in a dilemma if you don‘t deliver the job.  (INAUDIBLE) saying it here.

BURRIS:  I had no intentions of raising any money for the governor, I told my partners that, because I could not raise any money for the governor.  This is why I had that conversation.  I did want to help the governor.  Please understand.  Because I had raised money for not only the governor but for all other kind of candidates.  I‘ve raised money for a whole lot of other candidates.

But this here was a situation where there was a seat involved.  And I couldn‘t raise any money because, if I did, it would look like I was trying to buy the seat.  So that‘s what I always said, that I could not raise any funds because it would be a situation where I was, you know, trying to get something type of a quid pro quo, and therefore, I could not do it.

And I did not do it.  I didn‘t even make a phone call to raise any money.  There were no attempts to raise any money.


BURRIS:  And I didn‘t even send a check.  After I said I would send my normal thousand dollars to them, after I hung up that phone, I said to myself, Oh, I can‘t even send is a check because that would be mistaken as some type of a way I‘m trying to buy the seat.  So I didn‘t even send a check.

MATTHEWS:  Why did you promise him to go to your law partner and have him, or rather Tim Wright, hold a fund-raiser in his name so that you could get political credit for it?  Why‘d you do that?  Was that to cover the evidence?

BURRIS:  No, see that comment was that—you know—and in his name

it should have been in his name.  And that‘s what—Tim had said already to me that he couldn‘t run a fund-raiser, and I was just placating the governor‘s brother with that type of statement, knowing that we could not do anything.  That was just to placate him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I just want to read you back your words.

BURRIS:  Sure. A basically.

MATTHEWS:  “And my law partner, we‘re going to try to do something at the law firm.  I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright”—in other words, covering up your role.

BURRIS:  No, no, no, no, no.

MATTHEWS:  Why would you use the phrase “in the name of” if this was on the level?

BURRIS:  It should have been—it should have been—what I was saying is—and this is what I was telling the other officials when they looked at this—that this was the way I was placating the governor.  But I was thinking that Tim Wright would send out the—and he wasn‘t going to do it.  So he would send out the invitations.  Tim would put on the fund-raiser.  But Tim had already said...

MATTHEWS:  Well, did you have the intention of holding a fund-raiser at your law firm?

BURRIS:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.

MATTHEWS:  So you were bluffing.  You were bluffing.  You were telling the governor‘s brother you‘re going to give him something you weren‘t going to give him.

BURRIS:  Well, that—I‘d already said up above that I couldn‘t raise any funds for him, so that—that was just...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you mean when you say you‘re going to—I don‘t want to drive this any further.  One last time, Senator.

BURRIS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  You said you‘re going to use your partner‘s name in your law firm to hold a fund-raiser.  Did you intend at the time you said this to Rob Blagojevich, that you intended to hold a fund-raiser in the name of Tim Wright or not?  Did you intend to hold a fund-raiser?

BURRIS:  I did not intend...

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you were lying—you were lying to the governor‘s brother.

BURRIS:  I did not intend to hold a fund-raiser for the governor‘s brother.  We were seeking to placate the governor‘s brother because at that time, it was my intention not to alienate the governor‘s brother.  That‘s all.

MATTHEWS:  So your legal and political defense is that you weren‘t telling the truth to the governor‘s brother when you promised to hold a fund-raiser for him.  That‘s your legal and political defense, that you weren‘t telling the truth.

BURRIS:  Well, I was seeking to placate him because there was no way we were going to hold a fund-raiser, nor did we hold a fund-raiser...


BURRIS:  ... nor was there any effort to even give a fund-raiser.


BURRIS:  Was after that telephone conversation, Chris, nothing took place, absolutely nothing, because...

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s the context because I...

BURRIS:  We had come to the conclusion that I could not raise any money and nobody in my law firm or in the consulting firm was going to raise any money.



MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what I think is troubling.

BURRIS:  Sure.  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  You start the conversation—and I appreciate you giving me this exclusive conversation tonight because I‘ve always liked you...

BURRIS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... as a public official, and I think you‘ve had some real guts here.

BURRIS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  But this is very troubling.  Quote, “I know you‘re calling to tell me you‘re going to make me a king of the world.”  That‘s the first thing you say to Rob (ph) Blagojevich.  In other words, you‘re going to make me the senator.  You‘re going to tell me the good news.  And then he starts asking for the money and all this about fund-raising and fund-raising and how you‘re going to give him a personal check and you‘re going to set this thing up with your law partner.

Then he talks about the 18 fund-raising events he‘s going to have, and you say, Well, I can join in one of those events, too.  So you‘re offering more money.  Then you say, number one, I want Rod—I want to help the governor, your brother.  And number two, I want this job.

You‘re laying in the quid pro quo so clearly.  It seems to me you‘re making it awful clear you want the job, you want to help him raise money, and that is play-to-pay, isn‘t it?

BURRIS:  Chris, go back up to—go back up—up to that statement where I say, I cannot give you any money because I‘m interested in getting appointed to the Senate seat.



MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t want to be caught doing it, is what you‘re saying.

BURRIS:  No, no, no.  I—because I didn‘t.  I even told my partners that.  I told my law partners...



MATTHEWS:  ... then why did you go—OK, you give three indications that it‘s about appearances.  One, you talk about appearances.  And then you say your real concern...

BURRIS:  No, this is—this is a conversation...

MATTHEWS:  ... is that your money people are going to be disappointed that you went out and hit them up for money but you didn‘t get the Senate seat.  Then you talk about wiring the money through your law partner.  Then you talk about making a personal contribution.  Then you talk about coming back and hitting in some of these fund-raisers that they‘re holding and giving them further money.  Then lay down the quid pro quo rather directly, saying, One, I want to help your brother.  Two, I want this job.  I mean, you‘re laying it in so clearly.  It‘s very hard not to see the deal here.

BURRIS:  Chris, there was no deal.  That‘s what I was seeking to avoid.  There was no deal.


BURRIS:  I knew that I could not do anything because of the potential of a quid pro quo.


BURRIS:  That‘s why I didn‘t do anything.

MATTHEWS:  The last thing you say on the phone was...


BURRIS:  ... not even knowing that this was taped—hold on a minute, Chris.  Not even knowing that this was being taped or anything else, I had the foresight to say, even to my partners, Look, I can‘t give any money to the governor.  It‘ll be look like I‘m trying to buy this seat.


BURRIS:  And therefore, I didn‘t.  That‘s the bottom line.  Nothing was ever...

MATTHEWS:  OK, again...

BURRIS:  Nothing was ever given...


BURRIS:  ... nor was there any attempt to make a phone call.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know how this is going to go down in court.  I do know that you promised the governor‘s brother that you‘d raise money through your law firm, through the name of your partner, Tim Wright.  You‘re now telling me that wasn‘t the truth.  You weren‘t—you did not, even at the moment you said that, intended to raise the money.  That was just to...

BURRIS:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... as you put it, to placate him.  But at the end of your conversation, the last thing you said to the governor‘s brother last fall was, And I will personally do something, OK?  So you‘re again committing yourself to a personal contribution, in addition to the attempt you—well, you now say was just BS, basically, that you never intended to raise the money through the law firm.  And you promised to go to the fund-raisers, some of the 18 fund-raisers he was holding.  And what else?  And you were concerned at the appearances.

BURRIS:  No, no...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s clear.  You were worried about exposure here.

BURRIS:  And the other issue was at the last, when I said, I will send my check by December 15th, was the fact that I had promised him in our second conversation that I would—I had given him a thousand dollars in June and I was planning to send a thousand dollars.


BURRIS:  Now, Chris, if I could buy the Senate seat for a thousand dollars, I think that that would, you know, be pretty miraculous.


BURRIS:  My sending a check on the 15th would have been a thousand dollar check.  After I hung up the phone, my assessment was, I can‘t do that.  And I didn‘t do that.  I did not send a check.

MATTHEWS:  OK, last question, Senator.

BURRIS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the average Joe out there in Chicago thinks after hearing that you were getting hit up by the governor‘s brother for money, and you‘re promising...


MATTHEWS:  No, what do you think he thinks happened here?  Do you think the average person in Chicago, as much moxie as they have, thinks what was on here was a fiddle, that there was a deal here for you to help them raise money and you got the job?

BURRIS:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the average person is going to buy your argument that these are unrelated, that you just convinced the governor‘s brother, who‘s tough as nails, that you‘re going to ray the money but you‘re really not going to do it?

BURRIS:  And I didn‘t do it.

MATTHEWS:  You think people are going to believe that?

BURRIS:  Chris, I didn‘t do it.  I didn‘t even make a move to raise one dime for the governor‘s brother.  There was no attempt...


BURRIS:  ... no overt act, no anything because I told him I could not. 

And I was letting everybody that I talked to...


BURRIS:  ... was interested in getting appointed to the Senate seat.

MATTHEWS:  OK, my problem with you, Senator—is you‘re a fine gentleman, you‘ve had a great year, history of public service.  Let me tell you this.  I asked you on this program January 16th, did the governor ever ask you for anything?  And you gave me an answer about how, I never talked to the governor.

BURRIS:  Well, but that was...


MATTHEWS:  And then you said, He never—he sought nothing from me. 

He sought nothing...

BURRIS:  Chris, the governor never asked me for anything.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what did his brother ask you for?

BURRIS:  Well, the governor was trying to raise funds.  Like, he was calling, you know, 1,800 other people.


BURRIS:  He was raising funds.

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s the difference between the governor‘s brother asking you for money and you telling me that the governor didn‘t ask you for anything?

BURRIS:  Because he didn‘t!

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t there a conflict there?

BURRIS:  No, the governor didn‘t ask for anything.

MATTHEWS:  He had his brother do it.

BURRIS:  Well, look, I—I support all kind of candidates, Chris, in terms of fund-raisers. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Right. 

BURRIS:  Candidates called me all over, and I helped a whole lot of them with funds. 


BURRIS:  And, so, and then I don‘t—I don‘t believe—I don‘t consider that as asking for anything...


BURRIS:  ... because I knew that the Senate seat was—was—was...


BURRIS:  ... was—that the Senate seat was in—in play here...

MATTHEWS:  The problem is, Senator, this tape—I have the transcript in my hand—is back and forth throughout your conversation with the governor‘s brother you wanting the Senate seat, them wanting money.  You want the Senate seat, they wanting money, that is the cadence of that conversation. 

BURRIS:  And guess what?  And guess what, Chris?

MATTHEWS:  It‘s in the context of a deal. 

BURRIS:  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir.

BURRIS:  Chris, absolutely. 

And, Chris, I—I could certainly—and you can see where I said that I couldn‘t give any money because it would look like I would be buying the seat. 


BURRIS:  So, that would clear that up. 


BURRIS:  I mean, I was able to be—to be—have foresight to be able to do that. 

And there were some hundred -- 150 people were on—were—were on -


MATTHEWS:  Right.   

BURRIS:  ... the governor‘s fund-raising list.  I mean, they were just calling people to raise funds, because that was his whole agenda, to raise funds. 


BURRIS:  But in—in terms of my situation...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Senator...

BURRIS:  Chris, listen one minute—that I could not give anything, because I did not want to be a part of a pay-to-play. 

It‘s clear in that—in that testimony.  I didn‘t want to be considered like I‘m trying to buy the seat. 

MATTHEWS:  Well...

BURRIS:  Any contribution I would have given would mean that I was trying to be—and that‘s the reason why I didn‘t give any money.  There‘s no money even sent, no money even called to raise.


Well, as you say—as you say, you never intended to make good on the deal you—you—you made with the governor‘s brother. 

BURRIS:  No—no intentions whatsoever.

MATTHEWS:  You told me you—you were just placating him; it was just to make it look like you were interested in raising money; you didn‘t intend to. 

Senator Roland Burris, sir, thank you for joining us tonight on


BURRIS:  Thank you so much, Chris.  I really appreciate it.  Thank you, man.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.

When we return...

BURRIS:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... we will dissect what we have heard just now from the senator with two Chicago reporters. 

And, later, the battle is on over President Obama‘s pick for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.  The right and the left are agitating already. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After that long interview with Senator Roland Burris, we have got two experts here, Lynn Sweet of “The Chicago Sun-Times,” and Jim Warren, who is MSNBC political analyst. 

Lynn, first.  What did you just hear? 



We heard a lot of parsing.  What he was trying to do in—in his interview with you, and even in the conversation with the former governor‘s brother, is to have it both ways.  And that‘s the whole story here. 

He wants to think everybody—you know, he‘s smarter than everybody else, and he could do it and say:  I want to raise money, but I don‘t.  I don‘t want to have a conflict, but I do want to help. 

Remember that he still was a state lobbyist.  He had—in his own world, he had to stay on good terms with the governor, because he was interested in state contracts.  He might want a job for a relative.  So, there was a reason for him to have this conversation, and even start it, independent of whether or not he got—he got it.

MATTHEWS:  Why did he placate, as he put it, by saying he‘s going to have a secret fund-raiser, a fund-raiser through his law partner, Tim  Wright...


MATTHEWS:  ... and make—somehow convince the governor‘s brother that he was playing ball?

SWEET:  OK, because that—I take this as that he was greasing the way. 

This was more on a down payment, kind of the Illinois version of pay-to-play.  The first step is, this wasn‘t the real pay-to-play.  This is just to keep his foot—not even to go through the door to get in.

MATTHEWS:  So, he gets on the phone with his brother and days, Rod...

SWEET:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... he says he‘s going to have a—a law partner raise the money in his name.

SWEET:  Right. 

And that is a problem.  Can I just tell you, if this was some—if he was more articulate, he could have said:  I decided to volunteer myself to be a bundler.  But—and if this was another kind of campaign. 

But, here, he is doing it for the wrong reason, where he wanted to keep his name secret, not because he thought...


MATTHEWS:  That line where he said, “I want to do it in the name of my law partner.”

SWEET:  Right.  He was trying to do that...

MATTHEWS:  And then he said they got that wrong.

SWEET:  ... to cover up his involvement in this now.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

By the way, Jim Warren...

SWEET:  And he just...

MATTHEWS:  ... the transcript doesn‘t lie.  The transcript says “in the name of my law partner.”  He was trying to hide the fund-raising. 

What do you think? 

JIM WARREN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  First of all, I think that you should offer your services, at least pro bono, to the traditionally spineless Senate Ethics Committee for your interrogation skills. 


WARREN:  I don‘t—I don‘t think Burris will face as arduous a task if he ever has to show up there. 

Secondly, Chris, amid the rhetorical gymnastics of those 15 minutes that were bordering, really, on rhetorical self-immolation, a very significant issue was missed, which may be important than the back-and-forth on so-called pay-to-play, which is, two months after that video—that wiretapped phone conversation, Roland Burris testified before the state committee looking into this whole affair. 

By that time, remember, in January, he had been appointed to Obama‘s seat.  He did not bring this up.  The door was wide open to bring up this conversation.  His very Antonin Scalia strict-constructionist-like claim is, well, no one specifically asked me, did you have a conversation with the governor‘s brother? 

Several weeks later, if you remember, amid a bunch of questions resulting from ambiguities about his testimony—live testimony—he filed a written affidavit.  He didn‘t bring this up either. 

So, I think, if you‘re the Senate Ethics Committee or you are the ongoing investigation that is going on in Sangamon County, Illinois—

Sangamon County is the one where Springfield, the state capital is in, and we have got a prosecution—prosecutor looking into Burris—this...

SWEET:  Right. 

WARREN:  ... is all part of a potential—potential—perjury charge against Burris. 


WARREN:  Does it rise to that level?  I‘m not sure. 

But what you have here is a guy who is being a 100 percent unadulterated weasel. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to say that any question about whether there was a discussion of pay-to-play is over. 

SWEET:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  This conversation on tape today, released late this afternoon by the FBI, begins with, just to put the context together, him getting on the phone with the governor‘s brother, saying, so, what, are you going to make me king of the world?  In other words, am I going to get this appointment?

Right away, the governor starts talking about the fund-raising challenges ahead of his brother.  It‘s all about fund-raising.

SWEET:  And...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s all about how he wants this job. 

And what he‘s trying to, as you say, perhaps weasel his way through saying, suggesting, placating was his words:  I‘m going to raise you the money. 

But he says tonight, in his defense, political, as well as legal:  I didn‘t intend to do what I was saying.  In other words, he‘s saying:  I‘m lying to the governor‘s brother... 

SWEET:  No, he‘s saying—what he‘s saying...

MATTHEWS:  ... to get the Senate seat.

SWEET:  What he‘s really saying is that the tapes got it wrong. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, he also said that he meant...

SWEET:  Yes.  But—but here‘s the other thing, is...

MATTHEWS:  ... to say:  I was going to raise the money.  My partner was going to raise the money.  But the tapes actually say, I‘m doing it in his name.  In other words, I‘m covering up. 

SWEET:  Right, which is—and that—it‘s—within all—and—and—and Jim is right, of course.  This is very serious tape, because it could go to the central investigations that he‘s under in Springfield and Washington. 

But here‘s the other point I want to make here, when—he wants it both ways.  He‘s also not listening to the governor‘s brother, who is basically telling him, you are not in contention.  I don‘t want you to get your expectations up here. 

The governor‘s brother is trying to make it, more or less, a traditional fund-raising phone call:  Do you want to give me money or not? 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SWEET:  Do you want to do a fund-raiser for me or not?  Do you want to get some guy to do it in your name?  Fine with me.  Just, what are you going to do and when?

MATTHEWS:  But his end of the conversation is;  I want this job. 

SWEET:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me ask you, Jim Warren, about this question. 

“If I don‘t get appointed, then my people, who I‘m trying to raise money from, are going to look at me, ‘Yes, what?  What‘s that all about, Roland?‘  I mean, so, Rob, I‘m in a—I‘m in a dilemma right now.”

So, he‘s saying these—this is when he starts to seem to me to be squeezing the governor‘s brother, saying:  If I get you this money, and you don‘t give me this job, I look bad to my people, in Chicago street talk. 

What else could it mean? 

WARREN:  Oh, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s squeezing the guy. 

WARREN:  No, I absolutely agree.  I absolutely agree.

And, then, that—the ultimate defense if, you know, he‘s—is either he was going to go be a bundler, or then, as you caught, his—his ultimate defense is:  I was being disingenuous.  I was being deceitful.  I was lying.  I didn‘t mean a word of this.  I wasn‘t going to actually go help him. 


WARREN:  I mean, that‘s—that‘s not particularly potent before a federal jury.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is he going to resign tonight, Jim?  Is he going to resign?

WARREN:  No.  No. 

SWEET:  No, he will never resign.  He will never resign.

WARREN:  The smart money here in Chicago—guys—yes—the smart money here in Chicago says, he resigns, he doesn‘t go through a—a difficult Democratic primary next year.  He has an inability to raise money. 

I think what you saw again was a guy who I don‘t think is inherently evil or criminal. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARREN:  He has done a lot of nice things. 

But I think you see a guy who has such a stratospherically large ego.  And now he‘s in the most elite of clubs.  His dream has come true.  There is no way he‘s going to get out of the way for anybody else.  He‘s going to go down fighting.

SWEET:  No, I just talked to him on this point last week.  I had an interview with him. 

Did you know, last week, he went over to Harry Reid‘s office to talk to him about reelection?  He went over to Bob Menendez, who is head of the Democratic Campaign Committee, to talk to him about his reelection.  He even went to Bill Daley last week in Chicago to talk to him about a campaign.

This is from a man who hasn‘t put together any political operation...


SWEET:  ... or any substantial fund-raiser efforts.

So, independent of all this stuff going on and these tapes, he had an unrealistic view of his prospects for 2010, because he didn‘t do what...


MATTHEWS:  You know who has got a problem right now?


SWEET:  He‘s—he‘s got a big problem.

MATTHEWS:  The Democratic Party of Illinois has got a problem right now.  They have got the wrong senator right now, I think.  We will see more as this—as we develop these tapes. 

Thank you, Lynn Sweet.

SWEET:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jim Warren.

Much more on the Burris tapes ahead here on HARDBALL. 

And up next:  The battle lines are drawn in the fight over Sonia Sotomayor.  We‘re seeing the agitation—that‘s the word for it—from both sides. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, well, left, politically, is already up with an ad in support of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, but how far should the right go to fight this nomination?  And how much does President Obama relish a little fight?  I think he wants a little tussle here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Wall Street giving back much of Tuesday‘s gains today, as investors start worrying about rising borrowing costs for the government and GM‘s approaching bankruptcy deadline—the Dow losing more than 173 points, the S&P closing down 19, while the Nasdaq put up a good fight on big gains for computer chipmakers, but still finished the day down more than 17 points. 

A jump in government bond yields fueled fears that higher interest rates could slow the pace of economic recovery in the U.S.  The Federal Reserve has said it would buy up to $300 billion in Treasury debt this year to try to keep borrowing costs low. 

GM shares fell more than 20 percent today, as the White House continued to try to facilitate a debt-reduction agreement with bondholders, but the bondholders said no.  Experts say the issue seems destined to be settled in bankruptcy court. 

Meanwhile, Chrysler says it may emerge from bankruptcy sooner than expected, possibly as early as next week. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris Matthews and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll get back to Senator Burris in a minute.  But welcome back to the fight over the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor.  Both the right and the left are out there with a barrage of advertisements, e-mails and press releases. 

Joining me right now is Wendy Long of the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network and Brent Wilkes of the League of United Latino American Citizens, known as LULAC.  Let‘s take a look at one of the ads.  Here‘s an anti-ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  President Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.  He said why he thinks Judge Sotomayor belongs on the nation‘s highest court.  But what does she have to say for herself?  Here‘s Judge Sotomayor in her own published words: “our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.  I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male, who hasn‘t lived that life.” 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Brent? 

BRENT WILKES, LEAGUE OF UNITED LATINO AMERICAN CITIZENS:  Well, I think she was really just trying to say that a diverse court is an important thing to have, because it reflects the full diversity of America.  All opinions would be expressed.  And she‘ll have a different perspective that she can share with the other jurists. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that what she said or did she say, I‘ll be a better judge because I‘m a Latino.  I thought she said that.

WILKES:  It may have come out that. 

MATTHEWS:  Where have I heard about people saying what they didn‘t think they ought to hear, but what they actually heard.  Wendy, what did you hear in that tape? 

WENDY LONG, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK:  I heard her say, I think I‘ll make better decisions than a white man because I‘m a female Latino.  I think that‘s exactly what she said and I think it‘s a shocking statement.  If anybody else said, it you flipped it around and Sam Alito or John Roberts said it, we would all justifiably be outraged and shocked. 

It‘s a problem because there are only nine Supreme Court seats.  Well, I think we can come up with a few ethnicities that aren‘t represented.  I guess they‘re out of luck if they ever have a legal case.  Right? 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re asking me, Wendy, so I‘ll ask you.  Do you think we‘re better off with a balanced court with some representation of America besides white males?  Is it better to have a court that has some women on it?  Is it better to have a court with some people who aren‘t white or Caucasian, if you will?  Is it a better court per se if it has more representation of the American population? 

LONG:  I think that‘s completely irrelevant.  It‘s a better court—

MATTHEWS:  Irrelevant? 

LONG:  Yes.  May I finish my sentence?  It‘s a better court—

MATTHEWS:  You can always finish your sentence because I‘m asking a question.  Then you can finish your sentence.  I want to ask this simple sentence again.  Is it better to have an all male white court or not? 

LONG:  It‘s not better and not worse.  An all-male white court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education.  All male white are perfectly capable of representing every kind of person in America.  I also think it would be fine if we had an all female Latino court, by the way, may I add.  I just don‘t think that‘s the issue. 

I think the issue is are these people putting on that black robe and putting aside personal prejudices and personal beliefs and personal feelings and personal sympathies, and are they deciding on the law?  That‘s what equal justice under law means.  That‘s what the judicial oath means.  When every judge says they‘re going to dispense justice equally, that‘s what it means, regardless of who you happen to be with all the your personal prejudices.  And of course we all have them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Brent, is it better to have this woman on the court as a woman and as a Latina?  Is that better per se?  I noticed all the headlines in the major newspapers—I was stunned that we had such a categorical ethnic statement.  It was almost like Greek named to run UN.  I‘ve never seen anything like it.  It was totally ethnic. 

It‘s an Hispanic.  I think the “Financial Times” had Hispanic Named.  “Wall Street Journal” said Hispanic Name.  Even the “Washington Post,” a more liberal paper, and it said—in the second headline Hispanic.  It wasn‘t Sotomayor.  It was Hispanic.  Do you think that‘s healthy?  Is that healthy to have a categorical headline like that? 

WILKES:  No, it‘s not healthy.  I think it‘s important to have diversity.  But first and foremost you have to have a judge that has the experience that Sotomayor has.  She actually comes to this court with more experience than any judge that‘s come before the court in over 100 years.  She‘s had extensive experience as an attorney, as a judge—

MATTHEWS:  Is she wrong to say—I don‘t want to interrupt, but I have to get it moving.  Was she wrong to say I‘ll be a better judge because I‘m a Latino than a white guy?  Isn‘t that wrong to say that?

WILKES:  It‘s taken out of context.  I don‘t think that‘s what she meant.  I think she meant that diversity is important on the court and I agree with that.  I think it‘s important. 

MATTHEWS:  She was number one in her class at Princeton.  Do you think she needs help in explaining what she says?  You‘re saying she had a problem articulating something. 

WILKES:  She‘s had 3,000 panel decisions, 300 opinions.  None of them have any of that kind of connotation to it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to an ad.  Here‘s a pro-Sotomayor ad.  I want you to respond to this, Ms. Young—Ms. Long.  Wendy Long, I‘m sorry. 


OBAMA:  I will seat somebody with a sharp and independent mind, someone who understands that justice isn‘t about some abstract legal theory.  It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people‘s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes. 

I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded. 


MATTHEWS:  Wendy, how did you like the music? 

LONG:  It‘s lovely.  I think it‘s very touching and I think it‘s slick and I think that the words could have been spoken by John Roberts or Clarence Thomas or George Bush.  I‘m also surprised that given that the president is so personally popular, and given that this is a female Latina nominee, and given that they have 60 votes for sure in the Senate, that they think they need to advertise. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you remember the case back in the Brown case?  I‘m sure you do, where they had to establish the negative consequences, the impact of separate but equal, that they showed young black kids, white and black dolls.  The kids thought that the black dolls were better looking, because they had been sort of culturated (sic) to that idea.  That‘s where they got to the issue where separate but equal wasn‘t really equal. 

Don‘t you need empathy beside the law books? 

LONG:  So you‘re going to have empathy for one side and not the other? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, in that case, the people that were the victims were the blacks.  Yes, yes.  I‘m just asking, isn‘t there time when empathy is important?  Do not all people see everything that‘s important to a finding, that sometimes some people see it and others don‘t? 

LONG:  But you didn‘t need empathy, Chris, because what happened was Plessy was a lawless decision.  Brown is what the Constitution and all the men being created equal and the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence are all about.  It was the law.  It wasn‘t empathy. 

The law and Constitution of this country protect all of us.  They protect minority groups and they protect everyone.  And so to say that it‘s empathy I think is to give a little short shrift to the Constitution and our Bill of Rights, which are our real protectors. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m only going back to that particular case.  I think it took a little education for those white men to make the right decision on Brown. 

LONG:  They did. 

MATTHEWS:  They did.  We agree on that.  And we like the music together.  I‘m sorry to interrupt you.  We‘ll talk about it sometimes about what people say, if you let me finish.  Usually means I‘ve learned how to say that.  Thank you, Wendy Long, and thank you, Brent Wilkes.

Up next, back to Senator Roland Burris and his conversation with Rod Blagojevich‘s brother.  That‘s the hot topic tonight.  We‘ve got the tape from the FBI.  We just got it.  Let‘s talk about it in the politics fix.  It‘s next.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix, with MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of “Newsweek,” and Jeanne Cummings of the “Politico.”  I want to start with Howard, then Jean jump in here.  We don‘t have much time.  You watched the interview.  It was amazing. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  It was riveting.  It‘s one of the great pieces of live political television that I‘ve ever seen.  I‘m not saying it because it‘s sitting here.  Because there you saw a live slice of politics the way it is sometimes unfortunately practiced.  That was a pay to play operation.  And you know that Roland Burris is in trouble when his only defense is, I‘m a liar.  And that basically is what he was saying. 

MATTHEWS:  He said it again and again and again. 

FINEMAN:  I wasn‘t really trying to help him out.  In other words, I was lying.

MATTHEWS:  Never had an intent of following through.

FINEMAN:  That was not much.  I‘ll tell you what, the Democratic leadership in the Senate on the Hill is furious.  They‘re furious at the whole Democratic machine in Chicago for putting this guy here. 

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne, I don‘t think the Democratic organization in Illinois can keep this guy in office for much longer because they‘re going to end up paying for this.  They can‘t let somebody else come in.  I think they‘ve got to find a minority to replace him.  That‘s my hunch, politically.  What‘s yours? 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, “POLITICO”:  I think that makes sense.  Whoever comes in is going to be a place holder, because that Democratic primary is already filling up with plenty of candidates with real experience who want that seat. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about what you heard.  The interview, what I was struck by, kept going back to, was where he said, if I don‘t get the job and I‘ve raised all of this money, then my people are going to be mad at me.  That is a direct confession of pay to play.  I am raising the money.  I want the job.  If I don‘t get it—

FINEMAN:  It‘s not just pay to play between the governor and the would-be senator.  It‘s pay to play between the new senator and the contributor.  It tells you a lot about how they think the Senate works.

MATTHEWS:  In other words, they are buying into this new senator.  If they don‘t get what they paid for, they are going to be mad at him.  What do you think? 

CUMMINGS:  What is also so striking is this very idea that he thinks, in the end, we didn‘t give him any money, so it doesn‘t count.  As Howard said, basically saying he‘s lying.  It‘s totally missing the point.  The connection between the promise and the appointment is truly what we see quid pro quos look like when they go into court. 

MATTHEWS:  And the whole conversation was what am I going to do for you and what are you going to do for me.  Any juror that watches this who is a regular person is going to say, I spell money. 

We‘ll be right back with Howard Fineman and Jeanne Cummings.



RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I have no doubt Sonia Sotomayor is going to be confirmed.  None.  Zip, zero, nada.  Nobody should be attacked because they are female or because they‘re Hispanic.  My opposition to Sonia Sotomayor is based on the fact she‘s not a good judge.  She‘s an angry woman.  She‘s a bigot.  She‘s a racist.


MATTHEWS:  She‘s an angry, bigoted, racist.  Boy, it‘s amazing what Rush Limbaugh will come up with these days.  Jeanne Cummings, is this pot calling the kettle black or what the hell is going on here?

CUMMINGS:  All I know, it‘s the worst nightmare for the Republican.  They are trying to calculate whether they should vote against her, how aggressively they should try to sort through her record and challenge her during hearings.  And with things like that and all of that calculation to try to keep Hispanic support, even as small as it‘s gotten for Republicans, Rush Limbaugh takes can chase them all away in an afternoon with that kind of talk. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think he wants this fight, Howard.  I‘ll stick to my guns.  I think he wants the fight with the guy he‘s fighting with, as he always does.  The group you call RNC.  Let‘s go through their names, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney.  He loves to fight with that three. 

FINEMAN:  They‘re obliging.  Newt Gingrich just put out a Twitter message. 

MATTHEWS:  He is state-of-the-art. 

FINEMAN:  He is state-of-the-art—saying that Sotomayor should step down because she‘s a, quote, Latina Racist, or words to that affect.  Talking to one of the conservative Republican strategists, they are happy with this.  The right winger is happy because they are going to be able to talk about the Second Amendment.  There‘s a gun ruling that Sotomayor had that they don‘t like.  and they can get support from their base from.  There‘s the affirmative action thing in New Haven. 

In other words, they are speaking to and only want to excite, frankly, the white male base of the Republican party. 

MATTHEWS:  Jeanne, this is where we came in.  This seems to be the name of this year politics, the battle between the governing Democratic party and the outliers on the right.  That‘s the fight that goes on.  And John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are not even in the shouting match. 

CUMMINGS:  No, they are squeezed right in the middle.  It‘s the worst possible position for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Got to go. 


MATTHEWS:  Jeanne Cummings, little time tonight.  Thank you, Howard Fineman.  Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.



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