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Burris Discusses Meeting With Senate Leaders

CQ Transcripts Wire
Wednesday, January 7, 2009 1:42 PM

FORMER ILL. ATTORNEY GENERAL ROLAND BURRIS (D): I'd like to thank you all of the media very much. You all have been very kind to me and my staff, and we really appreciate your professionalism. This morning, I had a great meeting with Majority Leader Reid and Majority Whip Durbin. And in that meeting we discussed quite a few things.

But I had an important phone call before I went to that meeting, and that phone call was from my friend, president -- former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

And we chatted very briefly, and he indicated to me to "just tell everybody I said when you're in the Senate, Roland, you will make a great senator."

And I said, "Thank you very much, Mr. President."

And, of course, that gave me a little energy with going in to meet with my good friend and fellow colleague Dick Durbin, who I've known for years. We've campaigned up and down Illinois for many, many years, and marched in all those parades and stepped on each other's toes and got pushed over by...

(LAUGHTER)

... by a few anxious people.

And, of course, I met Majority Leader Harry Reid for the first time. And he's a very warm and charming gentleman. As a matter of fact, we have a lot in common, and we began to chat about that and about our families. And, of course, he was glad to hear, you know, about some of my upbringing and my family, my education and my experience.

And, most of all, Senator Reid was very glad to hear about my love for public service, my love for the 13 million people of the great state of Illinois.

And, therefore, when we get these two matters -- as you heard in his press conference -- out of the way, the signature of my good friend -- and I say my good friend, Secretary Jesse White, because we are friends -- and, of course, my testimony before the impeachment committee tomorrow in Springfield, then we will proceed then to submit our documentation to the Senate.

And, as you heard Chairman -- President (sic) Reid say, this will go to the Rules Committee, and they will then assess it and let me know what the outcome is.

So I'm very pleased this afternoon. I'm happy. My whole interest in this experience has been to be prepared, Roland, to represent my great state.

BURRIS: And that is my love. That is my desire. And very shortly, I will have the opportunity to do that as a junior senator from the fifth largest state in this great country of ours. Isn't it great?

Thank you so very much.

You just got to...

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS: Couple questions. Couple questions. That's all I can take.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Senator Reid and Senator Durbin did a 180 degree turnaround here and went from totally opposing you to, apparently, supporting the idea of your filling this seat?

BURRIS: And, Jack, that you'd have to ask them. Because all I know is when I sat down in that room with them, it was if -- well, I've known Durbin for 30 years, but it was as if I'd known Senator Reid for 30 years. I mean, they were very warm. They were very charming. And so you have to ask them that question.

I don't know what pressure they were under. But they, I guess -- they have to keep the integrity of the Senate. And they did not want to rush into anything and make a decision where they have to then be trying to reverse that. And that would even be worse than what this situation was presented before.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

Toward the end, I know one of the things they were interested in is the testimony tomorrow in the House Impeachment Committee...

BURRIS: Yes.

QUESTION: ... because I think they do want to know what kind of contacts, if any, you had with Blagojevich.

I've read the affidavit that you sent, but I have a question a little deeper. I was under the impression that when -- before Blagojevich was (inaudible) that you did want to put yourself in play for an appointment. And if so, your affidavit said you had no contact with the governor. How were you putting yourself in play, then? Who did you talk to specifically and... (CROSSTALK)

BURRIS: Oh, I was putting myself in play by friends from Illinois and across the nation, saying, "Roland, what -- well, you know, you want to be senator?" or, "You ought to be senator," and, "What can we do?"

My statement was, "Call the governor's office. Send an e-mail to the governor's office. Send in letters." And they were doing that from all over the country.

BURRIS: And so I thought, you know, that that would raise some level of interest on behalf of my -- of my interest in the Senate seat, and evidently it didn't, because...

(LAUGHTER)

... because they didn't even mention my name. I mean, I -- I didn't show up anywhere.

And I don't know what they were doing with the names and the people calling in, because one -- one of my high school classmates -- by the way, I was in the class of '55 -- and one of them called into the governor's office, and she called back to my classmate in Centralia, my hometown, who had started this, and said, "This lady said you're the thousandth person to call in for Roland Burris. We know about Roland Burris"...

(LAUGHTER)

... somebody said that.

QUESTION: Do you think anyone on your behalf might -- might have talked to -- this wasn't covered in the affidavit -- I don't think. Do you think anyone (inaudible) to talk to the governor? Are you concerned that (inaudible) might be with the wiretaps -- you know, there's some conversations that might surface?

BURRIS: I have no knowledge of that. And -- and if they did, there was certainly no pay-to-play involved, because I don't have no money.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS: Yes, please.

Oh, there's a gentleman -- excuse me. I just saw him. This gentleman is from Somerset.

Dick Barber (ph), stand up.

He's from Somerset, New Jersey.

Dick, how many people did you e-mail across the country and saying that Burris should be the senator? BARBER (ph): About 100. And I sent it to the press -- included Chicago, New York, L.A. The press didn't respond.

(LAUGHTER)

I've known Roland for 30 years.

BURRIS: Thank you, Dick.

BARBER (ph): Thirty years.

BURRIS: Thanks, Dick. Thank you.

I'm sorry.

Go ahead.

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) time for one more question.

QUESTION: Mr. Burris?

BURRIS: Yes?

QUESTION: One of the things that some Democratic officials have brought up as a -- as a deal to seat you would be a commitment from you not to run in 2010.

QUESTION: Now, in your discussions with Mr. Reid and Durbin and their staffs and the Democratic leadership, did you make any sort of commitment concerning the 2010 election? And, specifically, did you make any commitment not to run for reelection?

BURRIS: That is very interesting. I want to know where these -- where this information come from.

This wasn't even on their radar screen. They hadn't even brought it up. And I was getting these rumors about conditions.

They weren't talking any conditions. What -- what Majority Leader Reid said at his press conference, that is exactly what took place. It didn't come up.

QUESTION: So would you run for reelection in 2010?

BURRIS: Well, now, let me get my Senate legs under me and -- and get in and raise some money to pay for all this stuff we've been doing and figure out that once we get in and get settled and learn where the -- where the bathrooms are.

(CROSSTALK)

BURRIS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: You haven't made any commitment at all?

BURRIS: No, no, no commitment at this point.

Thank you all, press. Thank you so much. Thank you.

END

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