New affidavit was voluntary, Burris says
CHICAGO - Senator Roland Burris insisted yesterday that a newly released affidavit outlining contacts with ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich's brother and other advisers was voluntary and not the result of contact from federal agents investigating the former governor.
"It was done because we promised the [impeachment] committee we would supplement information in case we missed anything," Burris said yesterday before embarking on trip to talk with constituents. "End of story."
Burris released an affidavit over the weekend in which he admitted Blagojevich's brother asked him for campaign fund-raising help before Blagojevich appointed Burris to the Senate.
The disclosure is at odds with Burris's testimony in January, when the Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked whether he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.
The discrepancy could mean Burris perjured himself.
But the Democratic senator insisted yesterday that the Feb. 4 affidavit was merely a promised supplement, not a contradiction, to his testimony before the committee and was not requested as part of the federal corruption investigation of Blagojevich's administration.
"There was no change of any of our testimony," Burris, 71, said. "We followed up as we promised the impeachment committee. . . . The information that's being reported in terms of that this was done because of a fed statement is absolutely, positively not true."
Blagojevich appointed Burris to the Senate Dec. 30, three weeks after the governor was arrested on a federal complaint that he tried to trade the Senate post for campaign cash or a high-paying job.
The House impeached him, and the Senate removed him from office Jan. 29.
The affidavit's release prompted state Republican leaders to call for Burris's resignation and a perjury investigation while members of his own party, including Blagojevich successor Governor Pat Quinn, say they would like a full explanation from Burris.
According to the affidavit, Robert Blagojevich called Burris three times - once in October and twice after the November election - to seek his fund-raising assistance.
The disclosure reflects a major omission from Burris's testimony in January.
Burris said he never got a chance to answer a direct question about Blagojevich's brother, and submitted the Feb. 4 affidavit to clarify.
However, transcripts of Burris's impeachment committee testimony show he had opportunities to provide a full response to Illinois legislators. In one instance, when asked directly about speaking to Robert Blagojevich and other associates of the former governor, Burris consulted with his attorney before responding.
Robert Blagojevich's attorney has said that his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by the FBI.
Burris said Sunday that he told Robert Blagojevich he would not raise money because it would look like he was trying to win favor from the governor for his appointment.
"I did not donate one single dollar nor did I raise any money or promise favors of any kind to the governor," he said.
But he said he did ask the governor's brother "what was going on with the selection of a successor" to Obama in the Senate and "he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions."