Huffpost Chicago

Burris Stands By Earlier Criticism Of Blagojevich

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick for the U.S. Senate said Wednesday that he stands behind his earlier criticism of the Illinois governor, but refused to say whether Blagojevich should resign.

Roland Burris also said he didn't press Blagojevich for an explanation of the federal corruption charges before deciding to accept his appointment to the Senate.

"That is none of my business. Absolutely not," Burris said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm not interested in the charges against him. I have nothing to do with that."

Shortly after Blagojevich's arrest, Burris said the charges outlined "appalling" and "reprehensible" behavior. He applauded an effort by the attorney general to have the courts remove Blagojevich, saying the governor could no longer do his job.

Burris said Wednesday that he "absolutely" stands by those statements.

But he said that Blagojevich can continue performing his duties, such as appointing a new senator, and he refused to take a position on whether the governor should resign.

"That's his decision, so my thought on that wouldn't amount to a hill of beans," Burris said.

Blagojevich announced Tuesday that he wanted Burris, the former Illinois attorney general, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama.

His decision came several weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on charges that he schemed to benefit from his power to name a senator. Officials from all parts of the political spectrum urged Blagojevich not to appoint anyone, and U.S. Senate leaders said they would reject anyone he named.

Legal wrangling over the seat started Wednesday, when lawyers for Burris asked the Illinois Supreme Court to force Secretary of State Jesse White to certify Burris' appointment to Barack Obama's old Senate seat. White says he won't sign off on appointments by Blagojevich because of the accusations against him.

Burris repeatedly said that Blagojevich's appointment means he is already the state's new senator, even though he hasn't been sworn in.

He said he plans to be in Washington next week when new senators are sworn in, but he won't make a scene if he's turned away by Senate leaders who object to his appointment.

"That is not my style. I am not seeking to be confrontational," said the 71-year-old Burris.

Burris said he hadn't yet tried to contact the top two Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Both men, along with their Democratic colleagues, say they will refuse to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich.

Burris was vague on how he plans to change their minds. He said friends are studying the legal precedents for this situation and that he and his supporters will be calling Senate Democrats to lobby for their support, but he wouldn't identify any of these supporters or discuss his plans in detail.

The Senate, Burris predicted, ultimately will accept his appointment because it's legal and because he's not linked to the Blagojevich scandal. The governor has said he's innocent of the charges against him. Burris insisted that being named to the Senate by Blagojevich doesn't mean he is tainted by the scandal.

"I am not associated with him. The governor made an appointment of me to be the senator," Burris said. "He's carrying out his constitutional and statutory duties. That is not being 'associated' with him."