Monday, 9AM, Roland Burris Is Still Senator

I’ve lost my touch.

It used to be I’d go away for a week and Karl Rove or Alberto Gonzales would resign. Here we are, Monday morning after I’ve been gone a week (thanks to bmaz for really superb work last week!), and Roland Burris is still Senator.

Maybe if I do a recap of Burris’ week, though, and point out the looming holes in his story, then it’ll hasten his departure.

Fitz Joins the Fun

Remember how, in his press conference trying to explain how he forgot to mention his talks with RobBlago and John Harris, Burris couldn’t decide whether he had or had not been contacted by Fitz’ people regarding his negotiations on buying a Senate seat?

That question has now been solved, as Burris spent some time with federal investigators on Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris was interviewed by federal authorities for several hours Saturday as part of the ongoing corruption investigation into charges that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to sell a Senate seat for personal or political profit, sources familiar with the talks said.

Burris’ interview, which had been delayed for weeks, took place at his attorney’s offices in downtown Chicago. He has been informed he is not a target of the probe, the sources said.

Several details of this are interesting: what was responsible for the "weeks" delay in Burris’ testimony? Did he have to straighten out his story to the legislature first (though he did not do that with the State Supreme Court), so as to attempt to prevent perjury charges? Or did Fitz just want to make sure they had a complete catalog of the times Burris spoke to Blago’s people–including the multiple phone calls to John Harris that Burris still hasn’t ‘fessed to? Perhaps, too, Fitz wanted to wait until after the FBI started collecting information on Patti Blago’s tenure at the Chicago Christian Industrial League, since that was one way (through Burris’ partner Fred Lebed, who is on the board of the charity) that Burris could have influenced Blago in ways other than fundraising directly. Or, maybe, Burris was negotiating the terms on which he would be very forthcoming to Fitz?

Note that Burris’ secret sources (otherwise known as his attorney, I’m guessing) have gone to the Robert Luskin school of prosecutor-talk. Burris "has been informed he is not a target" of the probe. But did anyone mention anything about him being a subject?

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Three Data Points on Blagojevich

While some of us were busy in DC meeting Roland Burris this week, there were three data points of note in the Blagojevich scandal.

Genson Gone

First and foremost, Blago defense attorney Edward Genson quit his criminal trial.

Powerhouse lawyer Edward Genson, who most recently helped singer R. Kelly beat a child-pornography rap, said he will be "formally off" Blagojevich’s criminal case "when the next court hearing comes along.

"I wish him luck, and I hope he wins," Genson said. 

Now this is different from Genson’s earlier refusal to defend Blago in his impeachment trial. In that action, Genson was joined by co-counsels Sam Adam Sr. and Jr. This decision, however, appears to stem from disagreements with the Adams.

Genson, sources said, had been frustrated over a lack of communication with other attorneys for Blagojevich. That dissension boiled over Thursday when lawyer Sam Adam Sr. and his son Sam Adam Jr. said they planned to file a lawsuit to block the governor’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Genson had said there was no chance a lawsuit would be filed.

The Genson announcement is interesting for a couple of other reasons. Recall that Sam Adam Jr. was the one who brokered the Burris appointment–even after Genson had announced that Blago would not appoint anyone for the seat. When asked by the legislative committee whether having one’s defense attorney negotiate the appointment of a senate seat described in the criminal complaint tainted that appointment, Genson insisted that Sam Adam Jr. was not a part of the defense team.

And here we are, just a few weeks later, and Adam is a part of the team and Genson is not.

But the split here may represent larger disagreements about the proper course for Blago. If Genson fought unsuccessfully to prevent Blago from appointing anyone, and if he is now implicitly accepting the legal basis for the impeachment (or at least the inadvisability of challenging its legality), it is possible his defense strategy more closely resembled what a sane person’s would be: for Blago resign without appointing to the seat before an impeachment and get the best deal from Fitz you can. And, as a reminder, Blago’s team (or at least his team prior to Genson quitting) readily agreed to a 90 day delay of Blago’s indictment. Not that his new, Genson-less team could change their mind or would. Read more