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Senate Leaders Meet With Ethics Panel on Burris Probe

By Paul Kane
The Senate's top leaders met with the ethics committee today for interviews in the panel's burgeoning probe of Roland Burris's testimony before a state legislative committee days before he was granted his appointment to the seat vacated by President Obama.

Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who met with Burris a day before his testimony before the Illinois legislature in its impeachment inquiry of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, met with the ethics committee to discuss their interactions with Burris (D-Ill.) during his effort to secure the Senate appointment. Reid's office declined to comment on an ongoing investigation by the ethics committee.

Durbin acknowledged the interview and added that he also appeared before a local prosecutor who is investigating whether Burris told the truth in sworn affidavits and in testimony that he had no contact with Blagojevich or his advisers in relation to political fundraising requests before he was appointed. In early February Burris filed updated affidavits amending his prior statements to say he had spoken with Blagojevich's brother and other confidants of the governor, and that he had been asked to make donations and raise money for the governor.

"He has pledged his full cooperation with the ongoing investigations," said Jim O'Connor, spokesman for Burris.

The interviews of Reid and Durbin, first reported in Roll Call, indicated the usually glacial ethics committee is moving at a rapid pace in its investigation of Burris. It is also a highly unusual action to require the Senate's top officials to be interviewed behind closed doors in such a probe, but their testimony could be critical to proving the potential motive behind the alleged misstatements by Burris.

Federal prosecutors have charged that Blagojevich was effectively selling off the appointment to replace Obama, who resigned his Senate seat in mid-November, shortly after winning the presidential election. Wiretaps revealed discussions among Blagojevich and top advisers discussing what he could get from potential appointees in exchange for the seat, and in early December FBI agents arrested him in an early-morning raid on his Chicago home.

When Blagojevich refused to resign and appointed Burris to the seat, Reid and Durbin initially tried to block the appointment, suggesting any selection by the alleged criminal governor would be tainted. But Burris's name had never come up during the tapes that became public, and -- as a former state attorney general -- he had a public reputation that was ethically upstanding.

Reversing course, Reid and Durbin held a closed-door meeting with Burris in the majority leader's office to discuss his potential appointment. Afterward, Durbin told reporters that one condition for the appointment was Burris going to Springfield and testifying "completely" about his interactions with Blagojevich -- believing that Burris had never been asked to raise money around the time he was seeking the appointment.

Shortly after his appearance in Springfield, Burris was sworn into the Senate by outgoing Vice President Cheney.

Since the revelations that Burris was asked to raise money for Blagojevich, Durbin has suggested he resign, a request that Burris has rejected.

Here's the full statement from Durbin:

March 18, 2009

DURBIN STATEMENT ON THE INVESTIGATION OF SENATOR ROLAND BURRIS

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) issued the following statement today after speaking with members of the Select Committee on Ethics regarding the on-going investigation of Senator Roland Burris (D-IL). Last week, Durbin also spoke with Sangamon County State's Attorney, John Schmidt, regarding his investigation of Senator Burris:

"At the request of the Ethics Committee, I met with them today to assist in that panel's investigation of Senator Roland Burris."

"Last week, at his request, I met with Sangamon County State's Attorney John Schmidt who is reviewing the affidavits and other materials associated with Senator Burris' testimony before the Illinois House Impeachment panel to determine if criminal charges are warranted."

"In both instances, I shared my recollection of events leading up to and following Senator Burris' appointment to the Senate."

"Senator Burris deserves a fair and impartial investigation; the people of Illinois deserve to know the truth. And everyone deserves that this matter be brought to a timely conclusion.

So as not to interfere with the two ongoing investigations, I will not be commenting further on the substance of my conversations with the Ethics Committee or the State's Attorney."

By Paul Volpe  |  March 18, 2009; 5:18 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , Senate  
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Comments

Burris is to meet with the senate ethics committee. Ha ha ha ha ha .The senate does not have ethics so how could they have a committee? Rent to own? MAYBE,HMMM

Posted by: wchan22 | March 18, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I feel sorry for this poor little man. The only way he could have become a US Senator is through the back door. He had already been rejected by the Illinois voters a number of times and there is no way he can be reelected. I guess he gets his 15+ minutes of fame and into the history books. I think Blagojevich appointed Burris just to get revenge on those who were voting for impeachment. At least, I have learned to spell Blagojevich.

Posted by: Skye1er | March 19, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

this is so funny - an ethics committee..

I do not feel sorry for poor mr Burris - he is an adult -a bit old, maybe, and he made the choice to connect himself with
Blagojevich and his teammates

its the old lie down with dogs......

Posted by: barbiek1 | March 19, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Burris was not up front with his dealings with former IL Governor Blagojevich. He lied to get the post. He should resign and allow the people of IL to have a real Senator. If he is ethically up standing, he should know that resignation is the only ethical answer. Squatting is such an unbecoming thing.

Posted by: attl | March 19, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget to get names of those who had gotten the ill begotten bonuses, particular those who had already jumped ship. Their bonus should be zero and salaries cut. They are unethical behavior should be publicly censored. They should wear tattoo on their forhead as a life long reminder of what they have done to this nation and its people. Wall Street need to be reminded in a most forceful manner about their own behavior.

Posted by: attl | March 19, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Our Entire Federal and State Governments need to "sincerely reassess" thier own Ethical and Moral standards as they appear to no longer maintain their
obligations to the people of this Nation in whom they serve. They have grown far beyond our founders intended dementions and have become overly invasive or over involved in every facet of the private lives of We The People. This must end and end yesterday as Accountability to the people of this country and our U.S. CONSTITUTION has clearly degraded to almost nothing. Our once great republic is rapidly becoming a POLICE STATE - as even many of our international neighbors have recognized and several of them should know very well. Walk into one of our courtrooms and get the Judge angry and see how fast your alleged Civil Rights disappear along with every other law, code or rule there is. And what does every federal agency that is mandated to enforce your rights DO ? NOTHING absolutely NOTHING! Corruption and Moral bankruptcy has become an all consuming Virus that is fully consuming our once proud AMERICA.

IF YOU CANNOT SEE THIS THEN YOU ARE IN FULL DENIAL.

Posted by: GoodShepard2012 | March 20, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Our Entire Federal and State Governments need to "sincerely reassess" there own Ethical and Moral standards as they appear to no longer maintain their
obligations to the people of this Nation in whom they serve. They have grown far beyond our founders intended dementions and have become overly invasive or over involved in every facet of the private lives of We The People. This must end and end yesterday as Accountability to the people of this country and our U.S. CONSTITUTION has clearly degraded to almost nothing. Our once great republic is rapidly becoming a police state as even many of our international neighbors have recognized and several of them should know very well. Walk into one of our courtrooms and get the Judge angry and see how fast your alleged Civil Rights disappear along with every other law, code or rule there is. And what does every federal agency that is mandated to enforce your rights do? NOTHING absolutely NOTHING! Corruption and Moral bankruptcy has become an all consuming Virus that is fully consuming our once proud AMERICA.

IF YOU CANNOT SEE THIS THEN YOU ARE IN FULL DENIAL.

Posted by: GoodShepard2012 | March 20, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Roland Burris is now seeking 'legal defense funds' from contributors. Why should anyone help Mr. Burris to pay for the mess his arrogance, greed, and outright dishonesty have caused for himself? Roland Burris said it, did it, now Roland Burris needs to pay his own legal bills.

Mr. Burris, don't come knocking on any Illinoisians door for money. We never wanted you, won't ever vote for you, so don't expect or ask any of us to help you. If you need help, go ask your best buddy Rod Blagojevich.

Posted by: momof20yo | March 20, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

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