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Blagojevich, in defiant move, taps Roland Burris for Obama Senate seat. Press conference transcript

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Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.....

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. (Remarks in Spanish.)

The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States senators represent them in Washington, D.C. As governor, I am required to make this appointment. If I don't make this appointment, then the people of Illinois will be deprived of their appropriate voice and vote in the United States Senate.

Therefore I am here to announce my intention to appoint an individual who has unquestioned integrity, extensive experience and is a wise and distinguished senior statesman of Illinois. This man actually once was an opponent of mine for governor.

So I'm here today to announce that I am appointing Roland Burris as the next United States senator from Illinois. Roland Burris is no stranger to the people of our state. Between 1979 and 1992, he served the people of Illinois as the state's comptroller and the state's attorney general. He has had a long and distinguished career serving the people of Illinois. He will be a great United States senator.

And now I'd like to ask everyone to do one last thing. Please, don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man. Ladies and gentlemen, Roland Burris.

MR. BURRIS: I will have a brief formal statement and I will respond to a few questions. Thank you, governor.

As a nation, we face a convergence of unparalleled crises. Our nation is locked in an economic crisis not felt since the Great Depression, three-quarters of a century ago.

Our nation stares down the triple-barrelled threat of war in the Middle East, festering conflict in Iraq and continued threats of terrorist breeding grounds in Afghanistan.

As the greatest nation in the history of the world, the United States is confronted with a crisis of faith in our own leadership capability and in our ability to bring understanding to nations who look to us for peace and prosperity. And people of our great nation have told us in no uncertain terms that we are at a crossroads of confidence in our ability to return the ideals that make the United States the greatest nation in the world.

Faced with these challenges and challenged with these crises, it is incomprehensible that the people of the great state of Illinois will enter the 111th Congress shorthanded. To fight a choking recession and return our economy to a level of vitality and strength, we need leadership in Washington.

Illinois is blessed to have a talented and dedicated Congressional caucus led by our senior United States senator, Dick Durbin. Moreover, President-elect Barack Obama (has wrapped it up ?) and ready to hit the ground running on January 20th. If ever there is a man with the talent to succeed against the long odds, it is he.

I welcome the challenges that await us in the 111th Congress. I have faith in the record that I have forged over the past four decades, and I am proud of my accomplishments as a public servant. I accept this appointment to fill the unexpired term of President-elect Barack Obama. I ask the people of Illinois to place the same faith and trust in me that have been -- that they have in the past when they elected me three times as their state comptroller and one term as their attorney general.

I am humbled to have the opportunity, and promise the citizens that I will dedicate my utmost effort as their United States senator and I will uphold the integrity of the office and ask for their continued confidence in me.

Thank you all very much, and I will respond to a few questions.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. BURRIS: This is an appointment done by the governor of the state. And based on that, I have no relationship with that situation.

I am accepting an appointment by the governor to go to the United States Senate. That's it.

Q Mr. Burris, the House -- the Senate Democratic -- (off mike).

MR. BURRIS: That's the process that we must look forward to. And this is one process. I'm honored that I have been appointed, and we will deal with the next step in the process.

Q How long -- (off mike)?

MR. BURRIS: Well, I had talked with the governor on Sunday night when he asked, if he were to appoint me, would I accept. And my answer was yes.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. BURRIS: I have no comment on what the governor's circumstance is. And as a former attorney general of this state, I know, and I think most of you all know, that in this legal process you are innocent until you're proven guilty.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. BURRIS: Is it that much? Wow, that's a lot of money for us.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. BURRIS: How much did you say? Fourteen thousand?

Q We believe that's the amount, yes.

MR. BURRIS: Well, I got to check my records, because I didn't think it was that much. We didn't have that much money to give to the governor.

Q Roland, how much have you received in business from the state of Illinois -- your law firm, your businesses, your colleagues, your affiliates -- in the last six years, and from any fund, whether it's the state of Illinois or any -- (off mike) -- how much of your businesses have you received and have been?

MR. BURRIS: Oh, sure -- we have a -- that is, the consulting firm -- had a small contract -- we had a contract with IDOT where we certified minority businesses, and we did a good job. And I think the law firm of which I am of counsel -- that was my son's law firm -- we received some bond business. And we were co-bond counsel, as a minority firm, and they did a tremendous job.

(Cross talk.)

Q Governor, tell us why --

Q I had a question, sir.

Q Governor, tell us why --

Q Do you have the numbers? Do you have the numbers?

MR. BURRIS: I don't have the numbers. I'm sorry.

Q Can you tell us why -- (off mike) -- by your appointment, why -- (off mike)?

MR. BURRIS: Well, the --

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Do you want to do it?

MR. BURRIS: No, I mean, I -- I mean, this -- (laughs).

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: You're the senator.

Q Governor -- for the governor.

MR. BURRIS: Oh, this is for the governor.

Do you want to answer --

Q (Off mike) -- governor.

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: You know what? Let me say a couple things. I've enjoyed the limelight I've had over the last couple of weeks. I think it's been -- I don't want to hog the limelight. This is Roland Burris's day. So I don't think it's appropriate for me to really get involved in answering any questions.

Let me say again that the law requires that the governor make an appointment of a United States senator in the absence of any other law that would have given the people of Illinois a chance to be able to elect the successor to the United States Senate.

And when the legislature didn't act on the legislation they said they were considering, which I supported, which would have given the people the right to be able to elect the next senator -- failing that, then it's the governor's responsibility to fill the vacancy.

And to not fill the vacancy would be to deprive the people of Illinois of two United States senators, to deprive the people of Illinois of their appropriate voice and votes in the United States Senate. And with regard to my duty and responsibility as governor to follow the law, I would imagine that same responsibility and that same duty is one that trickles down to the other office holders as well.

(Cross talk.)

Q Governor?

Q Governor, because of the issues --

Q Only one more -- time for one more question, ladies and gentlemen. One more question.

MR. BURRIS: Congressman Rush. We've got Congressman Bobby Rush there. How -- Congressman -- you're okay?


MR. BURRIS: How you doing, Congressman?

All righty.

Q Governor, because of --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BURRIS: Oh -- oh --

Q (Off mike) -- what are you prepared to do if the U.S. Senate (refuses to seat your appointment ?)? What are you prepared to do?

MR. BURRIS: I'll -- we'll have to take that under advisement. I'm pretty sure the legal team will look at that.

(Cross talk.)

Q (Off mike) -- or do you want to run again?

Q (Off mike) -- run again, because --

MR. BURRIS: Well, we'll have to determine that when we get to that point, gentlemen.


Q Governor, (your press secretary today ?) --

(Off-mike cross talk.)

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Look, let me -- well, let me -- well --

Q (Off mike.)

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Look, it'll -- look, if -- I'm absolutely confident and certain that the United States Senate is going to seat a man of Roland Burris's unquestioned integrity, extensive experience and his long history of public service. This is about Roland Burris as a United States senator, not about the governor who makes the appointment.

(Cross talk.)

Q But Governor, because of the -- (off mike) -- against you --

MR. BURRIS: Congressman Rush is coming through.

Q Governor, because of -- (off mike) -- against you, they are not going to seat anybody you appoint. Why are you still making -- Governor? Governor, did you hear me?

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Bobby, did you want to say something?

MR. BURRIS: Bobby, no, no. Just come on up to the --

Q Governor, your lawyer said two weeks ago he wasn't -- (off mike) --

Q Why (the change about ?) -- why make the appointment now?

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Bobby, did you want to say something?

MR. BURRIS: Congressman Rush.

REP. BOBBY RUSH (D-IL): Good afternoon, and let me first of all thank God for this decision by Governor Blagojevich. This is a good decision. Roland Burris is worthy. He has not, in 40 years of public service, had one iota of taint on his record as a public servant. He is an esteemed member of this state and of this community. I -- my prayers have been answered, because I prayed fervidly that the governor would continue the legacy established by President-elect Obama and that the governor would appoint an African-American to complete the term of President Obama.

Let me just remind you that there presently is no African American in the U.S. Senate. Let me remind you that the State of Illinois and the people of the State of Illinois, in their collective wisdom, have sent two African Americans to the U.S. Senate. That makes a difference.

This is just not a State of Illinois matter, although the power to appoint, and Roland Burris would be representing the State of Illinois. But indeed by this decision, it has tremendous national importance, national importance.

We need to have not just one African American in the U.S. Senate. We need to have many African Americans in the U.S. Senate. So I applaud the governor for his decision. And I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee, as you try to castigate the appointer. Separate, if you will, the appointee from the appointer.

Roland Burris is worthy. He is the only one, I believe, that could stand in the gap, during these tumultuous times, and gather the confidence, re-establish the confidence of the people of the State of Illinois.

As far as certification is concerned, I think that the secretary of State acted prematurely in issuing the statement. I'm not sure whether or not he has any authority to actually certify or not. That's up to the lawyers.

I'm not a lawyer but I do know that he should be concerned about how the people of the State of Illinois will react to him not certifying this particular individual, Roland Burris, to replace the president-elect.

As far as my colleagues in the Congress, then I intend or we intend to persuade them or to challenge them or to do whatever, beg them, whatever it may take to get them to reverse their decision.

Roland Burris stands heads and shoulders above most elected officials in this nation. And so there's no rhyme nor reason that he should not be seated in the U.S. Senate.

This is a matter of national importance. There are no African Americans in the Senate. And I don't think that anyone, any U.S. senator who's sitting in the Senate, right now, want to go on record to deny one African American from being seated in the U.S. Senate.

I don't think they want to go on record doing that.

And so I intend to take that argument to the Congressional Black Caucus. I intend to take that argument to the senators. I intend to start with our own senator, Senator Durbin, who's a friend of mine, and I'm sure that he will stand ready to be reasoned with.

Thank you.

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

MR. BURRIS: Thank you very much.

REP. RUSH: Thank you.

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: (Off mike) -- Bobby. Thank you.

REP. RUSH: All right.


Q (Off mike.)

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH: Feel free to castigate the appointor but don't lynch the appointor. I am not -- (inaudible) -- any single one of you. See ya.


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Rod Blagojevich leads an all-star cast in this musical parody salute to famous felons.
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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 30, 2008 3:34 PM.

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias deplores Blagojevich Burris appointment was the previous entry in this blog.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says Blagojevich Burris appointment leaves "Illinois in a terrible situation." is the next entry in this blog.

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