- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2009

UPDATED:

Amid Republican calls for his resignation, Sen. Roland W. Burris of Illinois denied perjuring himself to a state House panel considering the impeachment of then-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, saying Sunday afternoon that he never misled anyone.

The freshman Democratic senator was peppered with questions in a frenzied and combative Chicago news conference about a quietly filed affidavit that appears to contradict his testimony in January about the Blagojevich associates with whom he had spoken about Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

Mr. Burris admitted in the Feb. 4 affidavit to the Illinois state House, which was only made public Saturday, that Mr. Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, asked him for campaign fundraising help before the former governor appointed Mr. Burris to the Senate in December.

The disclosure reflects a major omission from Mr. Burris’ testimony in January, when he was specifically asked whether he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or several other associates of the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat.

But on Sunday, Mr. Burris said he truthfully answered all of the committee’s questions last month, and voluntarily submitted the affidavit disclosing his contact with Robert Blagojevich only to clarify his earlier testimony.

“There’s no inconsistencies,” Mr. Burris said. “There’s no type, any type, of hiding or trying to slip something by someone. It’s completely honest, completely forthright, and it certainly is the truth.”

The senator said confusion regarding his January testimony occurred because the questioning changed course, and he wasn’t given an opportunity to answer a direct question about the former governor’s brother.

In the exchange in question, state Rep. Jim Durkin, a Republican, asks Mr. Burris whether he had expressed interest in the Obama seat with “any members of the governor’s staff or anyone closely related to the governor” and specifies six names, Robert Blagojevich among them.

“I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes,” Mr. Burris answered.

Mr. Durkin then follows up by asking, “Did you speak to anybody who was on the governor’s staff prior to the governor’s arrest or anybody, any of those individuals, or anybody who was closely related to the governor?”

The response was: “I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk,” one of the other named persons, and an elaboration of the details. Mr. Burris never mentioned Robert Blagojevich.

But in the affidavit, Mr. Burris now says Robert Blagojevich called him three times last fall asking for fundraising assistance, but he told the governor’s brother he couldn’t help because it would look like he was trying to win favor from the Democratic governor for the appointment. Robert Blagojevich’s attorney has said his client thinks the FBI recorded one of the conversations.

“I’ve always conducted myself with honor and integrity in providing information to the impeachment committee,” Mr. Burris said Sunday.

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