BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times Columnist
Sen. Roland Burris says the transcript of his Illinois House impeachment committee testimony proves he is not a lying little sneak.
It doesn't. But judge for yourself. Here's the excerpt Burris says exonerates him:
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Rep. Jim Durkin: "Did you talk to any members of the governor's staff or anyone closely related to the governor, including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including, let me throw out some names -- John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma? Did you talk to anybody . . . associated with the governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the governor's arrest?"
Burris lawyer Timothy Wright: "Give us a moment." (Wright and Burris confer.)
Burris: "I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes."
Durkin: "I guess the point is I was trying to ask: Did you speak to anybody who was on the governor's staff prior to the governor's arrest or anybody, any of those individuals or anybody who is closely related to the governor?"
Burris: "I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business, and I did bring it up -- it must have been in September or maybe it was in July of '08 that, you know, you're close to the governor, let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat."
From that exchange, Burris now says, we were to deduce that when he referred to "friends" and said "yes," he was confirming having been in contact with everyone named by Durkin except Greenleaf. He blames Durkin for then taking the questioning in another direction.
OK, that might be enough to save the senator from a perjury charge, even though he had previously submitted an affidavit claiming "there was not any contact" between him and Blagojevich's representatives concerning the Senate seat.
But here's what proves he is a lying little sneak.
While Durkin might not have asked Burris to clarify his reference to "friends," his fellow Republican, Rep. Jill Tracy of Quincy, did return to the subject.
Just watch Burris dance.
Tracy: "You said that you had visited friends perhaps in September of '08 or July of '08 concerning a desire to perhaps be appointed as a senator if our president-elect was elected. And could you give me the names of those friends?"
Burris: "I don't think I said in July. I said they were friends that I contacted after the election, but I was talking to people, I mean I don't know who you want as my friends that I consider as persons. For example, when I handled a press conference to express my interest in the seat, was the press conference -- I did hold a press conference, and some of my friends were there, for instance."
Tracy was temporarily sidetracked, then came back to the point.
Tracy: "But I think I earlier heard you today testify that in September '08 or perhaps as early as July '08, you had visited with some friends about your desire to seek the seat."
Burris: "No, I think I testified that that's when I began to express an interest in it. As I saw that --"
Tracy: "And I just was wondering who those friends were."
Burris: "One of them was my law partner."
Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the committee chairman: "Is that when you talked about your interest with Lon Monk? I think that --"
Tracy: "Was it Lon Monk, was that the extent of it was Lon Monk?
Burris: "That came up in our conversation when we were talking about, you know, if he has some excess clients in the lobbying business, you know, as we try to see whether or not he had conflicts somewhere with some type of a client because of his previous relationship with government. That's what we were talking about then.
"And it just came up, and in fact I said, 'Now, Lon, I don't know what's going to happen, but I think I'm qualified to be appointed to the Senate seat.' And Lon said, 'Well, Roland, I think you are, too.' And that was the extent of it."
Tracy: "So you don't recall that there was anybody else besides Lon Monk that you expressed an interest to at that point?"
Burris: "No, I can't recall. Because people were coming to me saying, Roland, you should pursue that appointment, you're qualified, and this was --"
Tracy: "Is there anybody that comes to mind in that light that you can --"
Surely, here was one last chance for Burris to clear the air and mention his contacts with Harris, Wyma or the governor's brother. But who did he name?
Rich Barber, a friend of his from New Jersey.
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