BREAKING: Burris Fesses Up

rolandburris-1thumbnail.thumbnail.jpgChicago tenor Roland Burris is singing a new tune:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama.

Burris’ latest comments in Peoria Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.

In comments to reporters after appearing at a Democratic dinner, the senator several times contradicted his latest under-oath affidavit that he quietly filed with the Illinois House impeachment panel earlier this month. That affidavit was itself an attempt to clean up his live, sworn testimony to the panel Jan. 8, when he omitted his contacts with several Blagojevich insiders.

Now this is something that Marcy (see: here and here) predicted, as did many of you. So, it is not exactly a shocking Captain Renault moment. That said, it is still extremely damning and is going to lead to a justified uproar. Already Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is calling for a deeper investigation, although she has held short of claiming perjury by Burris.

It is just the bundling efforts that Marcy predicted may be in play that appear to be in issue:

Burris said Robert Blagojevich told him, “‘We need to raise some funds. We hope that you could probably get some of your friends together.’ I said, ‘What type of money we looking for?’ He says, ‘Can you raise us 10-or-15 thousand dollars?’

Here are the new details Burris has copped to as of last night:

“So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called,” Burris said last night of Robert Blagojevich. “And now in the meantime, I’d talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fund-raiser on. Nobody was—they said we aren’t giving money to the governor. And I said, ‘OK, you know, I can’t tell them what to do with their money.’”

“So when the (governor’s) brother called me back, I said, ‘Well, look Rob…I can’t raise any money from my friends. I said, maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some other people that we might be able to talk to that would help us out if we give–because we give a fundraiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. We’ll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect.’

Burris said prior to his final conversation with Robert Blagojevich in November he came to the conclusion that because of his interest in the Senate seat, he couldn’t raise money for the governor.

“I said, ‘No. 1, I can’t raise any money for you and I can’t give you any money because I don’t want to have a conflict,” Burris said he told Rob Blagojevich.

The obvious point there seems to be that, at least so far, there is no evidence against Burris nor admission by him of him actually raising cash as opposed to attempting to do so. He will use this as a basis for arguing that there was no quid pro quo. Quite frankly, that is a fair argument – so far. The other thing is that, in relation to his testimony in front of the Illinois Legislature in January, Burris will say that when he testified "I talked to some friends" he was admitting to talking to the people Jim Durkin was inquiring about and just forgot to specify further, and it was an oversight. Do I believe that? No. Could I sandpaper him up and put him on the witness stand in a perjury trial and argue it up with a closing statement to sell it to a jury? You bet.

There is one other factor that muddies the waters, Mike Ettinger, Robert Blagojevich’s lawyer (and in what has to be a conflict at this point, Rod Blagojevich’s attorney of record in the criminal case), is now spreading a slightly different version:

Ettinger said Robert Blagojevich did not know about Burris’ interest in the Senate seat until the lasts of the three calls, which occurred in November after the election.

Ettinger said Robert did reach out to Burris in October, but to ask him to host a fundraiser, not to make a personal contribution. No specific amount was discussed, Ettinger said.

Ettinger has said he understands Burris contends he had told five people about his interest in the seat during the fall time frame.

"That may be, but my client wasn’t one of them," Ettinger said.

The lawyer said his client spoke with Burris in November while on the phone at the Blagojevich campaign office, which leads him to believe that call was recorded by federal agents, who had tapped the campaign headquarters’ phones.

During that conversation, Robert Blagojevich learned of Burris’ interest in the seat for the first time, and no fundraising effort with Burris went forward, Ettinger said.

The real problem, per the age old maxim, is that it isn’t the underlying act in politics, it is the lying and coverup. Burris may never get convicted of perjury, at least if the facts don’t materially change (Ha!), but he has already bought the farm on credibility. It will be interesting to see if Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and the Senate try to expel him. One thing is for certain, there are already behind the scenes chats with Burris trying to get him to resign. He has been awfully cocky and persistent so far, but we shall see.

UPDATE: Burris says he is game for any investigation:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris said today he is open to a Senate ethics investigation into how he got the Senate seat from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and that he has reached out to a Sangamon County prosecutor who is reviewing Burris’ sworn testimony before Illinois lawmakers.

Burris made a brief statement to reporters in Peoria today, saying an aide had reached out to Sangamon County State’s Atty. John Schmidt, who is reviewing testimony Burris gave last month to House lawmakers in Springfield about his contacts with allies of the ousted governor.

"I have made an effort to be as transparent as I can," Burris said. "I have nothing to hide."

Burris said, "I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies…to answer questions they have."

"There was never any inappropriate (contact) between me and anyone else," Burris said. "And I will answer any and all questions to get that point across and keep my faith with the people of Illinois."

81 replies
  1. oldtree says:

    The senate knew Burris paid for it, seated him after a minor little fit by Harry. Did someone lay down the first item of extortion that caused them to seat the highest bidder? Now isn’t it funny that the winner in the senate contest in Minnesota hasn’t even been seated yet, although certified. The senate has the right to seat Al right now. But instead, they chose to take a pass on low profile Al and his vote. He has no “power” no “backers” except the people of the state. But the highest bidder is fine up until his potentially pending expulsion?

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, well, that is quite a misrepresentation based on the known facts to date, which show no evidence of any payment; but do show dishonesty. Let us here not contribute to the dishonesty by stating facts that are not met by facts.

  2. Loo Hoo. says:

    Had to peek.

    Captain Renault: Make it ten. I’m only a poor corrupt official. …. Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! …

  3. Phoenix Woman says:

    Oldtree: The Senate Republicans will filibuster any attempt to seat Al Franken without an election certificate signed by Tim Pawlenty — and he won’t sign it until Coleman’s election contest trial is finally done. This is why the Republicans are throwing so much money at the Coleman contest: They want to delay the Democrats’ getting a 59th senator as long as they possibly can.

  4. Leen says:

    ”stating facts that are not met by facts” Damn if only the Bush administration would have been playing by these rules before they invaded another country based on a ”pack of lies” Lots of people would be alive today

  5. mamayaga says:

    The thing that gets me is that a Senate seat was going for only $10 to $15K — at that rate, I might have been interested. Next time this happens I hope our gov puts it out for public bids.

    Seriously, isn’t it time for Burris to long to spend more time with his family after his long and distinguished career in the Senate?

  6. joanneleon says:

    The thing I find most suspicious is that he could have admitted having contact with these people, and as long as he didn’t raise or give any money, there would be nothing stopping him from being appointed, no?

    I’m afraid that there is still more to this story that we haven’t heard. Burris has been revealing things bit by bit, under pressure. Each day, a slightly different story. No one is going to believe that we’ve got the whole story no matter what he says now.

    The best thing that could happen is for Burris to resign. But will he?

    I have a couple of questions in mind at this point. First, would Pres. Obama have a conversation with Burris and suggest it would be best if he resigned? Second, is there someone who is in the running for appointment by Gov. Quinn and who is squeaky clean?

    It’s pretty clear that a special election would have been the best way to deal with this seat, but we know that’s not going to happen if IL dems have their way. What a mess, and so much time now wasted and we still don’t have a solid senator from IL. We could end up going forward without three senators at a time when we desperately need them.

    A royal mess and infuriating. I blame the IL legislature for dragging their feet on the impeachment process, and Bobby Rush and Pres. Obama for pushing to get Burris seated. Chicago politics are even worse than I thought.

  7. nextstopchicago says:

    Thanks for the hattip.

    And once again, you’re pushing Lisa Madigan into a conversation where she has no more relevance than any other politician in Illinois. She has no prosecutorial power in this.

    The appropriate legal official to talk about is Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt, who asked for the relevant documents from the Speaker of the House this morning:…..nst-Burris

    An insightful commenter at Capitol Fax pointed out that the voters of Sangamon County absolutely despise Blagojevich, and hate Burris for his role in all this. Public opinion in Springfield will put a lot of pressure on Schmidt to bring charges.

    • bmaz says:

      Not sure who you are addressing, but the Attorney General of a state is its top law enforcement official and absolutely, in every state i have practiced in and/or seen, has the power to investigate, subpoena and convene statewide grand juries for offenses of statewide interest. Your statement that she has no relevance is absurd. She would have concurrent jurisdiction with the Sangamon County Attorney. Public pressure is not a valid factor in determining whether or not to bring charges, the law is. For a prosecutor to be run by public political pressure makes them every bit as despicable as Burris.

  8. BoxTurtle says:

    I highly doubt that this will result in Burris leaving the senate. He made it clear that he could care less about taint when he accepted the appointment.

    Reid got punk’d last time around and no matter how much he wants revenge I think he’ll go no father than calling on Burris to resign.

    Boxturtle (Sorry, bmaz, but right now I’d bet on the defense winning a perjury trial)

    • bmaz says:

      I thought I conveyed that above; I would bet big on acquittal based on the facts as they currently exist. Of course, this is Illinois, facts change.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Sorry, I misunderstood. We’re in agreement.

        Honestly, I doubt the prosecutor is going to find anything worth charging. Burris has “corrected” his testimony. And will likely do so again.

        Boxturtle (Am now waiting for Al Sharpton to spin up in Burris’ defense)

  9. nextstopchicago says:

    Two important items of context — Laura Washington wrote in the Sunday Sun-Times praising a black woman running for county board president against an unpopular black incumbent, and said the time when black voters accept any old jerk because “we need to keep the seat” has now officially ended.

    And this morning, Mary Mitchell came out hard against the ‘Burris apologists’.

    These are the two most important editorial voices in the black community (Yeah, the Trib’s a bigger paper, but not in the black community, and the Defender is a shadow of itself today.) I’d say Burris is hemorrhaging in his own community, so there’s much less political risk in going against him today than even a month ago, when Washington was writing in exact contradiction of her latest piece, arguing that Obama’s seat needed to be saved.

    I think we’ve finally learned the lesson that a few good black candidates advance black political aspirations better than a small handful of slimy ones.

    • prostratedragon says:

      If you want to know whether Burris (a downstater, not a Chicagoan) is in trouble in the Chicago black community (or you want to know the direction of sway in that community on anything else), listen to radio station What goes over the air there is a much better barometer than either Ms. Washington’s or Ms. Mitchell’s columns.

  10. Loo Hoo. says:

    OT from TPM:

    According to Cornyn’s Senate disclosure reports — posted on the site, which tracks privately financed trips by members of Congress — the Stanford Financial Group paid for the Texas senator and an unnamed companion to take a November 2004 trip down to Antigua and Barbuda, the tiny Carribean nation where the company has its headquarters.

  11. sojourner says:

    Slightly OT, but more shocking news… My senator, John Cornyn, who has done everything he could to stall progress on Obama’s agenda, or the stimulus — well, it seems that he took at trip in 2004 after the elections at the expense of that great Texas billionaire, Sir Allen Stanford. To that Caribbean paradise, Antigua. OK, since you ask — with an unnamed companion. Ostensibly to investigate some financial services stuff.

    Now, today it seems, Sir Stanford was charged by the SEC with some pretty hideous stuff. I simply cannot imagine that Senator Cornyn would be involved in anything that was not on the up and up, can you?

    • BlueStateRedHead says:

      Did he declare it on his Senate report? I presume so and the financial things was the purported reason. Is he therefor invulnerable legally? Or is it thr unnamed companion that is the embarrassment. Any legal vulnerability there. But then, if it’s sex, we know IOKIYAR or however you spell it.

      • sojourner says:

        I think my snark is 1) the fact that he is associated with the billionaire Sanford and 2) that there was an “unnamed” companion on that trip. I get terribly suspicious of people who hold themselves out to be something special and then get pointed at when there are questionable acitvities. Maybe it is just my roiled sense of justice or something, but Cornyn really pisses me off. Unfortunately, we are stuck with him for another six years…

        • PJEvans says:

          With any luck, this will be a big enough story that Cornyn decides to ’spend more time with his family’.

  12. nextstopchicago says:

    I guess I should have cited from the start. Here you go, BMAZ:

    >While the Attorney General has prosecutorial powers under the common law, he generally lacks the power to take exclusive charge of the prosecution of cases over which a State’s Attorney shares authority, unless exclusive or independent authority is given by statute. (See, People v. Massarella (1978), 73 Ill. 2d 531, and People v. Buffalo Confectionery Co. (1980), 78 Ill. 2d 447.) The powers of the Attorney General provide that he is to assist State’s Attorneys in prosecutions “when, in his judgment, the interest of the people of the State requires it.” (15 ILCS 205/ 4.) Prosecution assistance has been a major function, particularly necessary when serious cases have arisen in smaller counties with limited resources. Criminal activity on a multicounty basis has led to statutory power to convene a statewide grand jury with powers crossing jurisdictional lines for investigation of specified drug and streetgang related offenses. (725 ILCS 215/1 et seq.) In specialized areas, and particularly in areas pertaining to environmental protection, the General Assembly has given the Attorney General independent power to prosecute. As was provided in the office’s earliest days, the Attorney General retains the prerogative to “appear for and represent the people of the state before the supreme court in all cases [civil or criminal] in which the state or the people of the state are interested.” (15 ILCS 205/4.) Thus, most serious criminal matters, and particularly capital cases, eventually fall within the Attorney General’s purview.

    She can assist Schmidt by providing advice and possibly investigative aid. He controls the case. In fact, she won’t have anything to do with it. That’s why her stepdad didn’t give evidence to her, but to Schmidt.

    • bmaz says:

      Interesting. Thanks for that. That gives me a little more pause, but since the act to be alleged occurred before the state legislature, and involves a statewide office, as I read the Constitutional history at the Illinois Sec of State site, I still think there is an argument that Madigan may have primacy unless she relegates it to the county attorney. Interesting question. Sure wouldn’t have that question here or in other states I have dealt with in the west here. There is quite a bit of relevance for Madigan even if it is just in conjunction with the county attorney. Unless she waives it, which would be an abrogation of her duty. Curious situation though.

      • dakine01 says:

        Sounds kinda like Illinois is similar to Texas with the DA for the State Capital’s county being the one who prosecutes the mis-deeds of the lawmakers.

        That’s why the Travis County DA is the one who went after Delay.

        • bmaz says:

          It should depend on the nature of the offense; for offenses that are common or campaign crimes occurring within the county of the state capitol, or crimes occurring solely in some other county, I see why the applicable county attorney would be the one to prosecute. It strikes me a a different case, however, when the offense is one committed against the state as a whole, which would be the case for perjury to the legislature regarding a statewide Senate seat. Not saying the local county attorney couldn’t have jurisdiction, just that I would think that the state AG would have primary if she wanted it.

          All that said, I have no experience in Illinois, so that is simply somewhat educated random musing. The other thing I would point out is that Illinois sure has an interesting and convolute constitutional and statutory history behind their office of attorney general. Wow, interesting, but confusing.

  13. nextstopchicago says:

    Schmidt, asked whether he had a timeline this afternoon, answered that that wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved.

    Of course not! If you’re a Republican, I’d guess you want Burris left out on the laundry line for months. The last thing you want is to get him out in time for a new appointment by Quinn, a blue-chipper who cleanses the air. (And I say that not because Quinn would inevitably have appointed such a person, but because in this context, he’d have to.)

  14. nextstopchicago says:

    An aside – I thought it was funny that the AG’s site uses a masculine pronoun to refer to a hypothetical AG.

    (For those not close enough to Illinois, the AG is Lisa Madigan.)

  15. oldtree says:

    He admits to having knowledge of talks about raising money for Rod, Having talked to 3 people about the job and or raising money, and that his agents are talking about the job application/appointment at the same time with these or other agents of the former governor. There is no clear understanding that the two are related except for timing and what we are getting as hearsay. I must admit you are correct. I have overstated it. Sorry.

    • bmaz says:

      And that is not to say that there is not evidence that would tie it all together, at this point how could you bet against that, but we shall have to see if it comes along.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        If there is such evidence, Fitz doesn’t yet have it. I say that because if he DID, he’d have found some way to get it to the senate prior to Burris being seated.

        Burris ruined his reputation for two years in the Senate. Hope it’s worth it to him.

        Boxturtle (The life of the juniormost senator is very hard without friends)

  16. dakine01 says:

    I think I read that the Travis County DA (Austin) does it in Texas to avoid the appearance of local favoritism, so he gets all Federal offices and state Lege persons IIRC.

  17. JohnLopresti says:

    I guess FEC is stricter than our state was when I kept the bundlers’ books for a state PAC, though now it may be disgracefull even at state level to ‘fundraise’.

  18. tanbark says:

    Too good, watching Bmaz go after Burris. After pounding the drum for him to be seated.

    Bmaz; at what point did you discover that Burris was dishonest?

    I’d like to hear about that ephiphany. :o)

    • dakine01 says:

      As far as I can tell, bmaz never “pounded the drum for Burris to be seated.”

      He pounded the drum for the Rule of Law to be followed.

      There was not a legal reason to block the Burris appointment, at the time it was made.

      The Law is there for everyone to follow. Sometimes, it doesn’t give us the result we most prefer, which is the point when it is most important for us to assure that it is followed.

    • newtonusr says:

      Are you serious with this?
      Do you not differentiate between what is lawful and what is smart?
      And taunting the author is really productive…
      Follow the law (no matter how bereft), or be Bush.
      Nice comment, dude. Way to contribute.

  19. nextstopchicago says:

    >As far as I can tell, bmaz never “pounded the drum for Burris to be seated.”

    >He pounded the drum for the Rule of Law to be followed.

    >There was not a legal reason to block the Burris appointment, at the time it was made.


    Through graph 2, you’re certainly right. BMAZ was not a big Burris partisan, and he merely wanted to follow HIS INTERPRETATION of the rule of law. But Graph 3 needs to be amended that “BMAZ ARGUED there was not a legal reason …”

    There were legal reasons to postpone and investigate, including Burris’s many financial ties to Blagojevich, he firm’s partner’s spot on the board of the association that hired the governor’s wife to a 6-figure position she had no experience for, etc. It can be argued (and BMAZ did) that those things weren’t sufficient. But you have to make the argument. As I pointed out this morning, even Burris’s admission on 1/7 that he had urged friends to lobby the governor suggested there was more at play than what he initially described – “heck, the governor just called me on Sunday and I said I’d help him out.”

    I don’t mean to quibble, and certainly BMAZ had a strong argument. But your lecture to tanbark is just out of place. There were strong legal arguments against seating Burris too. We raised them at the time.

    • bmaz says:

      Despite the later events, i will stand behind what I wrote and opined at the time. I still feel it correct. what really pisses me off is that there were many opportunities to have prevented this going all the way back to last summer. Between the fecklessness of Harry Reid and Senate Dems, as well as Illinois concerns from the governor to the legislature (mostly Dems), they all played games of political advantage. with the way it went down, I still feel he had to be seated. It did not have to be that way. Just about all wear the collar of shame on this one.

  20. tanbark says:

    Spot on, Nextspot.

    There were HUGE legal reasons to “postpone and investigate” and not one person on here, including Bmaz, has ever pointed out anything illegal in putting Burris’ nomination on hold, while this played out.

    Bmaz was so concerned with rule of law that he was flacking for seating Burris, to protect it, and for seating him IMMEDIATELY, so as to avoid the rest of the slopjar being dumped on Burris’ head, and there was no logic of any kind talked about, as to the terrible damage that would be done by putting Burris in the Senate Rules Committee for a few weeks while all of the shit that any reasonable person knew was likely to come out, DID come out.

    It’s an example of trying to have it both ways that smells like last months’ mackeral.

    BTW, as stated in the constitution, the Senate has the right to pass judgement on it’s members, nominated or incumbent. If there are conflicting statutes, as has been claimed, then it should have played out in the courts while Burris was on hold. What possible harm could have come from that?

    Instead, Bmaz jabbered long and loud about the evils of NOT seating Burris, instanter, and in the process ignored the fact that we already knew what a political whore he was, from watching him change his mind about Blago’s fitness to govern, a matter of days after he’d supported Madigan in asking for his resignation. You can spin it all you want, but Burris changed it because Blago had offered him the seat. Evidently, there was nothing short of an indictment that would have made Bmaz stop saying that we needed to seat Burris. And, if you want to split hairs, you could say that since Burris hadn’t been convicted of anything, why not STILL seat him?

    Now that Burris has been caught lying like a rug, Bmaz can’t wait to join the dogpile.

    Welcome aboard!

    • bmaz says:

      You have been a complete jerk. Repeatedly. I have been accepting, so far; but that is growing thin. You should reconsider your mouthy belligerence. And please cease misrepresenting, out of your apparent personal animosity, they things I say and positions I take. This is a pretty open forum here; you have crossed the line. You are advised to step back on the other side of it. Your contributions are welcome here; your belligerent BS is not. The choice is yours.

  21. nextstopchicago says:

    >Spot on, Nextspot.

    >Instead, Bmaz jabbered long and loud about the evils of NOT seating Burris, instanter,

    Sigh. Tanbark, you enlist me in a crusade I clearly rejected. I said BMAZ had strong arguments, and we did too. I don’t think this was as easy as either side made/makes it out to be. BMAZ was strident, but his arguments made some sense.

    I do think more delay was called for, and constitutional.

  22. nextstopchicago says:

    By the way, the AG just issued a statement (via capitol fax) clarifying the issue of prosecutorial authority:

    >Under Illinois law, state’s attorneys have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violations of the vast majority of criminal laws, including the perjury law. The Attorney General’s office does not have jurisdiction to investigate these allegations or a grand jury to use in conducting that investigation. The Sangamon County State’s Attorney has jurisdiction to conduct this investigation and prosecute if necessary.

    >I encouraged the Sangamon County State’s Attorney to take a closer look at this in the interest of truth, integrity and transparency, and I am pleased to learn that State’s Attorney Schmidt is reviewing the issue in an effort to fully understand all the facts related to this matter.

    • bmaz says:

      Fascinating. Not so much that the AG cedes jurisdiction to the county attorney, but that she feels she doesn’t have any ability to begin with. I still somewhat question that in the abstract, but it is irrelevant as she clearly would cede it anyway.

  23. tanbark says:

    All I’m doing is pointing out that you were pushing hard for Burris to be seated. That was the effect of your concern for the law, but no law would have been broken by keeping him in the rules committee while the truth about his receiving Blago’s nod played out. The things that some of us warned about in the debate over that, are now extant.

    And now you’re putting up threads scorning him and you’re objecting to people reminding you that this is what we warned you about.

    If I were in your position, I wouldn’t be going after Burris; I’d be apologizing for any small part I had in supporting the process of getting him in the United States Senate.

    Make of that what you will.

    • Hmmm says:

      The difference, I suppose, would be that now there is evidence, whereas then there was only suspicion. That is an incredibly important difference.

    • bmaz says:

      I owe you, nor anyone else, an apology on this. I call things as I see them, based on the facts that are extant. It still would have been a horrible precedent to set, and i still feel that it was crucial not to set it. This case in miniature is not more important than the process. You are welcome to differ.

  24. nextstopchicago says:

    Interesting that the NY Times update this afternoon gets a bland quote in from St. Rep. Fritchey.

    Fritchey is in a scandal of his own today because he cut off a line of questioning that gets at the heart of the issue, saying leave Burris alone, he already answered that he didn’t have any other conversations.

    Fritchey is very close to some of the interests behind Blagojevich’s early rise, and it’s easy to see why he’d want things kept quiet in any discussion of Blagojevich’s connections and methods. Why Dirk Johnson or Monica Davey would give him a platform today is beyond me.

  25. tanbark says:

    Hmmm: I consider the fact that Burris changed his mind 180 degrees, about Blago’s fitness to govern, based solely on the fact that Blago chose HIM to be the nominee for the Senate seat, as evidence of his unfitness to be in the Senate. That, and the fact that we needed, badly, to wait for the rest of this to come out, was reason enough to put his nomination on hold.

    It was like a no-brainer: anyone corrupt enough to accept Blago’s appointment had no business being in the Senate. And we all knew what was going to happen when the Illinois legislature moved on Blago.

    Now, the kneejerk conservatives are already starting to beat us over the head with Burris, and asking: “Is this change?”

    Obviously, it isn’t, and it’s a black mark on the democrat controlled Senate that they let him in.

    I’ve been saying that Burris was a little time bomb, and I’ve got $20 that says he’s still ticking.

    With all of this, Fitz’ hammer is yet to fall. When it does, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t land to some degree on some of the people around Obama. The accumulation of appointment-mud was already hard to defend. Now it’s getting thicker, as Burris dribs and drabs out his admissions to try to stay ahead of the situation.

    Stay tuned.

    • newtonusr says:

      Your arguments against Burris (and I am not taking your cue that there were legal procedures that could have prevented his seating) sound like concern over optics.

      How’s this – if Illinois has a decent Senate pick, I would be surprised, given the state of the State. So it’s either follow the law to the letter and begin the weeding process now, or use ‘legalisms’ to kick the can down the road until some more convenient time. When would that be, exactly? And who exactly would that be?

    • Hmmm says:

      You’re entitled your opinion. I would be surprised if you agree with mine, but to me, calling that rather normal political self-serving position switch on Burris’ part ‘evidence’ at a level comparable to what we have heard in the past few days seems out of balance. The new stuff puts a completely different complexion on the matter.

  26. nextstopchicago says:

    >The difference, I suppose, would be that now there is evidence, whereas then there was only suspicion. That is an incredibly important difference.

    Actually, there was plenty of evidence.
    1) evidence that the governor tried to sell the seat,
    2) evidence that Burris participated in conversations about the seat with gubernatorial envoys,
    3) evidence that Burris’s story was already evolving rapidly and that he had left out very relevant details,
    4) evidence that he had close financial ties to Blagojevich over a long period of time (his many contributions and his firm’s lucrative state business, under an administration with an already noted pattern of pay-to-play, which indeed was the subject of the inquiry)
    5) evidence of strange contribution patterns between the two men (like the firm that contributed more than half of his gubernatorial warchest, whose only other known contribution in history was to Blagojevich’s campaign in that same election),
    6) evidence that he was attempting to influence (the Lynn Sweet answer) a governor whose indicted liaisons he had spoken to about the seat, which in itself is
    7) evidence that he knew exactly what kind of influence the governor would accept – personal financial evidence; and
    evidence that his lobbying partner and former chief of staff Fred Lebed might have helped get the governor’s wife a lucrative job she had no known qualifications for during this same time period (hired in September).

    And there was suspicion of what these things added up to.

    You don’t owe us an apology for thinking the evidence wasn’t enough. But you do need to summarize it accurately, which your post at 44 didn’t do. It seems pretty clear to me that some of your unfamiliarity with the mountain of evidence, circumstantial though it is, comes from your not being an Illinoisan. But I think you need to be somewhat more humble in your pronouncements about the evidence given the fact that you’re unaware of so much of it.

    • Hmmm says:

      Naturally the bad smell was more obvious to Illinoisans, you folks are much closer to it. But I think it’s a big leap from having a bad smell to having non-circumstantial evidence that actual specific acts of wrongdoing occurred. If you think it’s OK to bar a lawfully made appointment to the US Senate because somebody doesn’t like the appointee’s associates, absent any non-circumstantial evidence that actual specific acts of wrongdoing occurred, then we will have to agree to disagree because I think (and this is my own analysis, I don’t think many if any posters or other commenters here see the same problem I do) that’s an open invitation to a coup at the Federal level. Imagine a Republican party in some future resurgence, who decide to exclude members of the other party because they claim they smell bad; then imagine they gain the Senate majority using this tactic; now imagine they impeach.

      • newtonusr says:

        Show me a pol who has ever put his/her hand out to accept any contribution from anyone who doesn’t wonder, or need to wonder, where it comes from, and it will be Jesus running for Congress. And Jesus does not live in Illinois.

      • nextstopchicago says:

        Circumstantial evidence is evidence. It can be sufficient to prompt further investigation. That’s what I was calling for. Delay and a complete investigation based on strong circumstantial evidence, some of which was just coming out as the Senate began to move towards the easy political out of seating him.

        I didn’t call for voting to block him. If nothing else had come out after due diligence, I’d have voted to seat him. And we might well still be here. However, I doubt it. I think that someone would’ve sung. Swear in the obvious people – Lebed, Monk, Robbo. Ask them about conversations about the Senate seat only as they relate to Burris. I doubt they’d have all kept their mouths shut. This is outside the Fitzgerald investigation, and my guess is Fitz would even have given them access to relevant conversations.

        In fact, I don’t think you’d even need to hold the hearing. I think as soon as the subpoenas were announced, Roland would have stepped out at Lebed’s insistence. Rahm may not be Barack’s Rove, but Lebed is definitely Roland’s.

        • Hmmm says:

          Circumstantial evidence is evidence.

          It’s a much weaker category of evidence than physical evidence or testimony, and aside from how easily manufactured or manipulated it is by crooked prosecutors, the concept only ever comes into focus when there is an actual, specific illegal act being charged, i.e. an act of which there is other, verifiable, independent evidence. For example in a murder case there is a body and a finding that foul play occurred; the only question is whodunnit, and you can try to make a case using circumstantial evidence if that’s all you have.

          Whereas in the Burris example we’re not starting with a murder or some other inherently illegal or wrong, not mention observed, act. Instead we’re starting with a Senate appointment which is inherently neither illegal nor wrong. Only corruption would make it illegal or wrong. The bad act would be the making of a deal, and despite suspicions we don’t actually know whether that ever happened. So what you have here is not a whodunnit but a did-it-even-happen, and that’s a whole different kettle of fishy smells. IANAL but I do know logic, and making the case that an unobserved thing has happened and none of the other possible explanations did — which is what thwarting the appointment at the pre-seating phase would have required — calls for more than circumstantial evidence; besides scrupulous application of inductive logic it also calls for having enough information to eliminate all the other possibilities — not hunches and smells.

          Such information was not available to us at that time, and likely isn’t even now. What is different now is that we’re getting some direct evidence, and so we no longer need to make do with induction and elimination based on circumstantial evidence. And that’s great.

          • nextstopchicago says:

            That’s just flawed logic. First, we had SUBSTANTIAL circumstantial evidence. I cut 8 planks of solid virgin timber up above to begin to build the structure.

            Second, this is not a criminal prosecution. The question of whether someone can be seated as a US Senator while the appointment is under a taint of illegaliy deserves at least the scrutiny that a question of employment might be given if there was substantial circumstantial evidence that a supervisor was attempting to hire a flawed employee who had bribed him, in the wake of clear and compelling evidence that he was attempting to sell the spot.

            Nothing was harmed by delaying acceptance of his credentials pending an investigation. Your criteria aren’t even suitable for deciding the final question, let alone deciding whether to investigate.

            • Hmmm says:

              Welp, this is all kind of water under the ol’ bridge at this point, and I could make a cutting remark about how if the good people of Illinois really gave two craps about this problem then they would have dealt with Blago long before he got the opportunity to do this appointment in the first place, and/or they would have risen up and demanded the special election to which they were so richly entitled, and/or they would have demanded faster investigations to build some useful object out of those 8 planks you found… but I’ll stay engaged for one more round since I think the underlying principles are important.

              I guess where I am at a loss as to your position here is how “a taint of illegality” could ever be cleared up without examining what the facts and the law are. Those are exactly what “a criminal prosecution” would look at, are they not? So playing the two against each other as you do just does not compute. And in case it’s not clear, I agree with you that the level of scrutiny should be significantly greater than for a new hire… but it seems to me that so then should the level of the scrutiny of the claims against the appointee be higher, not the same, and certainly not lower — there are things an employer is forbidden by law to consider when hiring, after all.

              Imagine if Burris were pure as the driven snow, and that the claims against him were false and nefariously driven. Would you be arguing differently for the treatment of that appointee? If your answer includes a protest that that doesn’t matter because everybody just plain knew Burris was and is a crook, even though nobody’d been able to pin anything on him, then I would assert that that position is just a short and dangerous slippery slope away from “Verdict first, trial after”. Not as a matter of law — and why you keep going back to that escapes me — but as a matter of the care that we all as Americans take the trouble to apply when judging for ourselves when something is right and when it is wrong.

              • nextstopchicago says:

                You stil don’t get it.

                1) I wasn’t calling for a trial. I was calling for delaying long enough to investigate serious evidence against him (which has been proven true – he did seek to get money to Blagojevich at a time when he was trying to influence Blagojevich to get him the nomination).

                2) There is no damage done by delaying in order to investigate the serious evidence against him. It’s as simple as that. The precedent set by a short delay to investigate is that a future Senate might decide to delay a seating for a short time to investigate. It takes longer to run a special election than it does to issue subpoenas and talk to Fred Lebed, Lon Monk and a couple people at the Christian Industrial League about why Patti got the job.

                3) You admitted you don’t know nearly as much about the evidence as people in Illinois who’ve been following it. So why keep blustering?

                4) Your patronizing remarks about Illinois voters are idiotic. Blagojevich and Burris have done damage to the state. But not the damage that Bush did to the country. So I guess I could “make a cutting remark about the good people of the US” and imply that you’re one of the idiots who gave us Bush. Go back to where you came from. We got our governor impeached. You helped insure he could commit once last nefarious deed before we got him out. Go to hell.

  27. DWBartoo says:


    Them what got some Burris under their saddles might want, gently and carefully, to get off their very high horses …

    As to the politicians, let the horse biscuits fall where they might.

    All of them deserve our ongoing suspician, but in this ‘case’ bmaz called things right …

  28. MadDog says:

    Totally OT – Jane Mayer has another one of her typically excellent pieces up at the New Yorker:

    The Hard Cases

    Will Obama institute a new kind of preventive detention for terrorist suspects?

    The last “enemy combatant” being detained in America is incarcerated at the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina—a tan, low-slung building situated amid acres of grassy swampland. The prisoner, known internally as EC#2, is an alleged Al Qaeda sleeper agent named Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. He has been held in isolation in the brig for more than five years, although he has never stood trial or been convicted of any crime. Under rules established by the Bush Administration, suspected terrorists such as Marri were denied the legal protections traditionally afforded by the Constitution. Unless the Obama Administration overhauls the nation’s terrorism policies, Marri—who claims that he is innocent—will likely spend the rest of his life in prison…

    A must read! And perhaps a post or two.

  29. Elliott says:

    Burris Bound For Ethics Committee Grilling

    A statement just out from Jim Manley, spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) effectively clears the way for the committee to look into the situation. “Senator Reid supports Senator Burris’s decision to cooperate with all appropriate officials who may review this matter, including state agencies and the Senate Ethics Committee,” said Manley in a statement. Burris has invited the ethics investigation.

    “I have made an effort to be as transparent as I can, and I’m willing to take a further step as I have nothing to hide,” Burris said in a prepared statement to reporters in Peoria.

    A spokesman for Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the committee, responded with the following statement. “Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry,” said the California Democrat’s communications director, Natalie Ravitz.

    • Petrocelli says:

      Elliott !

      Given Boxer’s temperament the past couple of weeks, I wouldn’t want to be in Burris’s shoes.

  30. R.H. Green says:

    I have made an effort to be transparent…as transparant as I can.

    Reminds me of words to a song from the hazy days.

    “Accused him of cheatin; Oh, no, it couln’t be.
    I know my uncle; he’s as honest as me,
    An I’m as honest as a Denver man can be.”

  31. Mary says:

    56 – I *threw up* a fast kos diary on that…../29/698668

    He sees himself working as an “independent monitor” of companies that have run “afoul” of the law – – and he’s going to join the CIA’s backstop for the the Clinton renditions, White – and Lord Goldsmith of BAE fame.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  32. Mary says:

    58 – Bellinger, who has over and over tried to backsource himself into some kind of heroic, anti-torture stance, while simultaneously refusing to say waterboarding US soldiers would be torture and firing off cover up letters on request, manages to conjure up what passes for “spunk” in the torture camp:

    John Bellinger III, who served as the counsel to the State Department under President Bush, says of officials in the Obama Administration, “They will have to either put up or shut up. Do they maintain the Bush Administration position, and keep holding Marri as an enemy combatant? They have to come up with a legal theory.”

    Much as I like Mayer (and editing has to be a huge problem) it’s a bit bald to just leave him in there as “counsel to the State Department” when he was also Rice’s right hand when she was National Security Advisor and he served as counsel for the National Security Counsel and was reportedly up to speed on the Principals and their torture involvement.

    In any event, so cute of him to say “they” have to come up with a “legal” theory. I thought his crew already did that, didn’t they? It’s legal to kidnap, maim, disappear children, torture and torture to death “suspects” or even people who are just related to suspects or have similar names to suspects –

    as Mayer puts it: “the designation encompassed not just members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban but also anyone who associated with them, supported them, or supported organizations associated with them, even if unwittingly”

    – as long as someone named Bush is grinning in the background.

    In any event, while I understand the import of where Mayer is going with this:

    A number of national-security lawyers in both parties favor the creation of some new form of preventive detention. They do not believe that it is the President’s prerogative to lock “enemy combatants” up indefinitely, yet they fear that neither the criminal courts nor the military system is suited for the handling of transnational terrorists, whom they do not consider to be ordinary criminals or conventional soldiers. Instead, they suggest that Obama should work with Congress to write new laws, possibly creating a “national-security court,” which could order certain suspects to be held without a trial.

    emph added

    the problem is, the problems are, the once, future and forevermore problems will be, have been and will remain — the ability to substitute Presidential whim for evidence and jury in determining whether or not someone el-Masri, Arar, Errachidi, Kurnaz, thousands sent to Abu Ghraib, thousand more to other detention facilities, etc. – actually ARE terrorists.

    The point Mayer ends with:

    As Hafetz puts it, “In the more than two hundred and thirty years since this country’s founding, we have not found a better way to find the truth than through a criminal trial.”

    Notice that the likes of Taguba and Mora aren’t people that Obama has brought into his fold and all the talk of embracing a secret national security court is beyond disheartening. But kudos once again, as before, to Mora:

    Alberto Mora, a Republican lawyer who, as general counsel of the Navy, broke with the Bush Administration after concluding that some of its brutal counterterrorism policies were potential war crimes, warns, “We simply can’t have indefinite detention. Due process and fundamental fairness make that clear.”

    You know, in addition to due process, the fact of the matter is that our government has Constitutionally delineated powers and one power is not only not granted to government, but government is Constitutionaly prohibited from conferring that power on itself through legislation. The power to suffer consequences on someone without trial – the power of attainder. Our government was not given the power to inflict penalties and punishments without trial – although apparently both Kagan and Holder agree that the world is a battlefield on which the US can pick up anyone and subject them, without proof, on suspicions or whim and without oversight, to indefinite detention.

    Oh well, lucky us – we have the likes of Bellinger ever ready to opine that:

    “Governing is different from campaigning.”

    and to whip on his Dr. Who t-shirt and predict:

    …that Obama and his officials will soon discover that “they can’t just set the clocks back eight years, and try every terror suspect captured abroad in the federal courts.”

    Well, considering some, like the bipolar chef we isolated for years at GITMO, have been returned to other countries, and some, like Dilawar, are dead with shocking bodily damage, and others, like Sidiqui, are institutionalized for mental and physical issues, that’s a stellar observation.

    But if he’s concerned on the torture front, that we just can’t profer up tortured evidence to real courts they way we hope to be able to in the future to the secret “national security courts” cases like Lindh, Saleh and Padilla should set his mind at ease, that is, if his mind was ever at attention to start with.

    The one thing Bellinger says that I do buy into is his admission of what I have said over and over about the Bush programs – they were human experimentation.

    Bellinger now says that the treatment of Marri was a “failed experiment.”

    Mayer also goes to Kelley (who LHP thinks highly of) but when she mentions his handling of the Marri and Lindh cases, there is a lot left out. It’s interesting all those who are coming out of the woodwork to buy themselves white hats these days.

    Where I have the biggest problem is where she goes to McCarthy as a source, as if he somehow had an opinion of worth. This is the guy who literally spent pages and days in angst over whether or not Bill Ayers ghost wrote Obama’s book.
    Whatever the guy once was, his writings have been just nutty for over a year. It’s like going to Reagan in the midst of his Alzheimer’s decline for his opinion on how to handle Iraq.

    Still, it’s another excellent read from Mayer.

    • MadDog says:

      I found my reading of Jane Mayer’s latest similar to yours.

      There was indeed a lot of black hats trying to don white hats (Bellinger as a key miscreant).

      Or at the very least, again like Bellinger, trying to excuse their actions and policies by attempting to pass the buck with the old “see if you can do better” BS.

      So I do share your take on her latest, and yes even then:

      Still, it’s another excellent read from Mayer.

    • Nell says:

      It’s interesting all those who are coming out of the woodwork to buy themselves white hats these days.

      This has been a major weakness of Mayer’s excellent reporting to begin with. CIA sources that she needed were pushing the “we had no idea how to do interrogations so we borrowed from the uncivilized wogs” line, and she transmitted it.

      It’s even less forgivable with named sources, but at least it permits open argument with counter-evidence that puts big smudges on those white hats, such as your comment here.

  33. tanbark says:

    Hmmm; if Burris’ switch (In a matter of a few days) from wanting Blago out, to cutting a deal with him for the Senate seat, isn’t evidence of Burris not being fit to BE in the U.S. Senate, then your bar for “evidence” is just a lot higher than mine.

    • Hmmm says:

      I agree with you, tanbark, that you and I have a difference in the level of proof that we are willing to accept. Where I think we have our biggest difference of opinion is on the question of how serious a matter it is to interfere with the transfer of political power that the appointment process represents. I think reasonable people can differ there (even though it seems some other people do not think that reasonable people can differ there). And I think you and I agree again that investigations were always appropriate and fully warranted throughout this whole episode, and that Burris has not smelled remotely good at any relevant time.

  34. tanbark says:

    Also, of the time frame, Blago had not been exposed for the crook that he is. I too, wish that the Illinois legislature had moved more quickly, but if Burris’ switcheroo wasn’t enough to at least put him on hold, while this played out, it should have been.

    Not to mention the fact that Blago’s being removed from office in a unanimous vote didn’t seem to bother the people who thought that not seating him immediately, was a threat to modern jurisprudence. They just rolled with the punch, and only now, when all of Burris’ contact and dickering with Blago’s people is coming out, are those people jumping into the dogpile.

  35. lllphd says:

    hm. interesting stuff. i suspected this would be the way things played out, and i believe i stated as such here somewhere in these comments a while back.

    it was in defense of reid’s position on it all, and i’ll say again that i believe he did all he could do. he could NOT just shrug and move along; that would have provoked as much outrage as he got anyway. he had to back down because the IL legislature was not moving fast enough to clear the way for the lt. gov. to get in place and appoint someone else. and yet, i suspect that he suspected (just as i suspected) that burris had come by his seat nefariously, that this would come out in the near future, and he would be removed and they would get what they wanted in the first place.

    sometimes the gunslinger is just NOT the way to go. sometimes (and being buddhist i think most times) it’s best to let things unfold as they will. little nudges, not hamfisted smacks.

  36. lllphd says:

    OT. well, sort of.

    can one of you brilliant lawyers opine on this?

    my dear friend in MN gave me some insights on the coleman/franken mess yesterday, not anything any of us does not already know, but her sense is that coleman has only dug his political grave forever with his obstruction of all this. he’s totally sunk if he calls for a special election; he’ll be humiliated.

    this will take a lot of time, and who knows, ANOTHER recount??? given how deeply the RNC is lining his pockets to keep this fight going, and clearly all to keep the dems down to 58 in the senate.

    so, i was wondering about the legal recourse the people of MN might have in the courts themselves. is there a class action here to sue coleman and the RNC and the MN repugs for purposely preventing the people of MN from having their full representation in the US senate?

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