Burris: "I Conducted Myself With Honor" | NBC New York

Burris: "I Conducted Myself With Honor"

Republicans want perjury investigation

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    Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (L) introduces former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris (R) as his choice to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. The former governor's brother reportedly sought money from Burris days before his appointment.

    After offering conflicting statements about his contact with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris said conversations he had with associates of Blagojevich were not inappropriate.

    "I conducted myself with honor," Burris told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

    Burris told reporters Sunday his updated response was to ensure all the information comes out. Reporters pushed the senator to explain why he waited weeks after his Jan. 8 sworn testimony before the House impeachment committee to tell lawmakers about multiple conversations with allies of Blagojevich. 

    It wasn't until Burris filed an affidavit on Feb. 5 that he fully disclosed conversations with others including Gov. Blagojevich's brother Robert. 

    Burris said federal investigators have not contacted him about the allegations that the former governor tried to sell President Barack Obama's senate seat. 

    Meanwhile, the state's top Republican lawmakers are calling for Burris to resign and they want a criminal investigation to see if Burris perjured himself during his sworn testimony. 

    "I can't believe anything that's coming from Mr. Burris, at this point," said State Rep. Jim Durkin, a Republican from Western Springs. "I think it would be in the best interest of the state if he resigned."
      
    Robert Blagojevich's attorney said that his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by FBI eavesdroppers.
         
    Former Gov. Blagojevich appointed Burris Dec. 30, three weeks after the governor was arrested on a federal complaint that he tried to trade the Senate post for campaign cash or a high-paying job. The House impeached him and the Senate removed him from office Jan. 29.
      
    It's the second time Burris has changed his story. In an unsolicited affidavit Jan. 6 to the impeachment committee, Burris said he had only one limited conversation with Gov. Blagojevich before accepting the Senate appointment Dec. 30.
      
    Appearing before the committee Jan. 8, he added that he told former Blagojevich aide-turned-lobbyist Lon Monk last summer that he was interested in the post.
      
    The latest affidavit also reveals for the first time that Burris believes he likely told former Blagojevich advisers Doug Scofield and John Wyma of his interest in the post at a fundraiser in June, and later asked about it when he spoke to Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, arrested with Blagojevich Dec. 9.
      
    Scofield, Wyma and Harris were also among the Blagojevich associates Burris was asked about in his Jan. 8 testimony by Durkin.  In response, Burris said only that he had spoken to Monk.
      
    Conviction for perjury, although often difficult to prove, can bring significant fines or even prison time.

    Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat and committee chairwoman, said she just saw the affidavit earlier this week and only a miscommunication with staff and a state holiday prevented it from going to all committee members by now.
      
    She said she plans further committee action and that seeking an outside investigation now is premature.
      
    Robert Blagojevich's lawyer, Michael Ettinger, said Blagojevich 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 Nov. 4 election. Ettinger said the subject of the Senate seat wasn't raised.
      
    Ettinger said Blagojevich remembers only one other conversation in November from the governor's campaign office, which the FBI had wiretapped at the time. Robert Blagojevich 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.
       
    His lawyer, Timothy Wright III, said in a cover letter 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."
      
    Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his No. 2, Dick Durbin of Illinois, vowed not to seat any appointment by Blagojevich, but eventually relented. One condition of their acceptance was Burris' impeachment committee testimony under oath that there were no "pay to play" promises exchanged in his appointment.