About the only good news Roland Burris has today is … the news. After all, on a day when Barack Obama picked a Supreme Court nominee, the UN is considering sanctions against North Korea, and California’s Supreme Court upholds a controversial referendum barring gay marriage, who will pay attention to a ruling that releases key wiretap records of his conversations with Rod Blagojevich’s brother? Unfortunately, the Senate Ethics Committee — and us, of course:
A federal judge said Tuesday he would allow the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee to have a federal wiretap of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother having a phone conversation with U.S. Sen. Roland Burris.
The conversation between Burris and the former governor’s brother occurred while Blagojevich was still governor and before he named Burris to President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
Burris has been under intense scrutiny because of the circumstances of his appointment by the disgraced former governor and for changing his story multiple times about whether he promised anything in exchange for the appointment.
The Senate Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary investigation. The Sangamon County State’s Attorney is determining whether perjury charges are warranted.
Burris has more to fear from the US Attorney than the Ethics Committee. All they can do is toss him out of the Senate, which it appears they will want to do quickly in order to allow Democrats to hold the seat in the next election. The US Attorney wants a crack at putting Burris behind bars for perjury and obstruction of justice, and the conversation may give him overwhelming odds at success.
Two questions arise from this decision. How long until the wiretap record becomes public? And at what point will Burris throw in the towel and resign? I’d guess that he tries riding it out until the wiretap transcript hits the press, because he has nothing left in his future, except perhaps a plea bargain that will keep him out of Club Fed.
Update: The Chicago Sun-Times report that the conversation included a promise from Burris to cut a $1500 check to the Blagojevich Enterprise:
In a November conversation caught on an FBI wiretap, Roland Burris promised Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother that he’d write the governor a campaign check by mid-December, Burris’ lawyer said today.
That was about a month before Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate. … Burris did not mention a promise of a check in a Feb. 4 sworn affidavit that Burris submitted to an Illinois House panel investigating Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. That affidavit sought to supplement Burris’ testimony before a House panel, where Burris only mentioned having contact with Lon Monk with regard to the appointment.
On one hand, $1500 isn’t exactly a big amount in terms of the Blagojevich Enterprise. Burris’ lawyer downplayed the significance of the agreement, essentially saying that had Blago wanted to sell the seat, he would have demanded a lot more than that. He’s right, but that doesn’t let Burris off the hook. He never mentioned that promise despite changing his story several times under direct questioning about pay-for-play promises. Fifteen hundred may not buy a Senate seat in Illinois, but it will probably buy a perjury conviction for Burris.