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Burris denies lying to panel
But the skepticism of Chicago journalists was manifest at Sunday’s news conference, where Mr. Burris frequently got emotional and berated the press. The senator, his lawyer and the reporters also often talked over one another.
“If you all report this story correctly, there’s no story,” Mr. Burris said, also warning that “Republicans are gonna try to make political hay out of this.”
He also accused reporters of “using hindsight and second-guessing” when asked why, if his initial testimony was accurate, he bothered to file the affidavit at all.
Mr. Burris’ explanation was also not good enough for Republicans, who called over the weekend for Mr. Burris to resign and for a criminal investigation into whether he committed perjury.
“I can’t believe anything that comes out of Mr. Burris at this point,” Mr. Durkin, the impeachment committee’s ranking Republican, said at a separate news conference Sunday. “I think it would be in the best interest of the state if he resigned, because I don’t think the state can stand this any more.”
The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said late Sunday the Nevada Democrat is looking into the issue.
“Senator Burris told Senator Reid and Senator [Richard J.] Durbin [of Illinois] on Friday that he filed an affidavit to clarify his testimony before the Illinois legislature. Clearly it would have been better if Senator Burris had provided this information when he first testified. Senator Reid is reviewing the affidavit and will await any action by Illinois legislative leaders after they review the matter,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said.
The affidavit also is not the first time Mr. Burris has amended his accounts of the Senate seat. In a Jan. 6 affidavit to the impeachment panel, he said he had only one short conversation with the governor before accepting the Senate appointment.
But two days later, while appearing before the committee, he said, he told a former Rod Blagojevich aide last summer that he would be interested in Mr. Obama’s Senate seat if he won the presidency.
CNN’s chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, said on the network after the Burris news conference that the Illinois Democrat has “a political problem not a legal problem.”
Mr. Toobin said that because the standard for perjury is high - outright knowing falsehood - he faces no realistic chance of being jailed for perjury, but in the court of public opinion, he is “likely to be accused of being too cute with his testimony before the impeachment committee.”
“Probably in the clear legally, but voters might say ‘oh, come on,’ ” he said of Mr. Burris’ explanation that he told the truth about his conversations with Robert Blagojevich.
The former governor appointed Mr. Burris, a former state attorney general, to the seat on Dec. 30 - three weeks after federal agents arrested Mr. Blagojevich on a complaint accusing him of trying to trade the Obama appointment for campaign cash or a high-paying job. The state legislature removed Mr. Blagojevich from office.
Senate Democratic leaders initially said they would refuse to seat any Blagojevich appointee but eventually relented and accepted Mr. Burris on the condition that he testify before the Illinois House impeachment committee and assure the state and the Senate that there was no corruption involved in his being appointed.
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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