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Burris: 'I am the legally-appointed senator'

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  • Burris: "I intend to be sworn in"
  • Burris: "I will present myself to the Senate tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow morning"
  • Burris: "And should they turn me away, I will then proceed to leave"
  • Burris: If that happens, my lawyers will decide on next course of action
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(CNN) -- CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke Monday with Roland Burris, picked by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. Below is a full transcript of the interview:

Roland Burris spoke Monday to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about his appointment to the U.S. Senate by Ilinois' governer.

Roland Burris spoke Monday to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about his appointment to the U.S. Senate by Ilinois' governer.

Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor: And joining us now is Roland Burris. He is the man that the governor of Illinois wants to be the next senator from the state of Illinois, succeeding Barack Obama.

Mr. Burris, thanks very much for joining us here in The Situation Room.

Roland Burris, former Illinois attorney general: It is my pleasure. To all the CNN listeners, happy New Year.

Blitzer: Thank you very much. And happy New Year to you.

All right. Give us the -- your reaction, because we're just getting word as we speak that the secretary of the Senate says she can't accept your appointment yet because the secretary of state of Illinois has not yet certified that you, in fact, will be the junior senator from Illinois. Video Watch what Burris says about the appointment »

What's going on?

Blitzer: Well, Wolf, we know that under Illinois law and constitutional law that the secretary of state can in no way veto legal action of the governor. So that signature is only perfunctory and ceremonial to put the seal on it for, you know, recording and filing purposes.

But we're in court now on that issue. We're hoping and praying the Illinois Supreme Court will give a writ of mandamus forthwith that that signature is to be placed on the document...

Blitzer: Are you...

Burris: ... then received by the -- I'm sorry?

Blitzer: I was going to say, have you been in touch with the Illinois secretary of state and asked that that certificate be signed?

Burris: Oh, well, yes, I talked with the secretary of state beforehand. He advised that because of his commitment to the people that he had said he would not sign it. And so I certainly respect his position though I disagree with his position. And we are hoping then that the supreme court will cause that matter to take place.

Blitzer: Because as all of our legal experts say, this is a close call, whether the U.S. Senate can in fact reject your nomination, your designation as the junior senator from Illinois. And that could go to the courts.

But walk us through what's going to happen. You're about to get on a plane to fly to Washington and all of the new senators are supposed to be sworn in tomorrow when the Senate convenes. Tell us what your intention is?

Burris: Well, Wolf, I intend to be sworn in. I will present myself to the Senate tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow morning. And should they turn me away, I will then proceed to leave and then my lawyers will have to assess what the next course of action will be.

But in no way will we go there to try to create any type of a confrontation, any type of a scene. We're in touch with Sen. Durbin's people, and naturally we're in touch with the sergeant-at-arms in the United States Senate.

And by the way, that gentleman is from Illinois. Terry Gainer was the director of Illinois State Police when I was the attorney general of our state. And so we know Sergeant-At-Arms Gainer very well, and we're not looking for any type of, you know, hostile environment or hostile situation.

Blitzer: Because yesterday Sen. Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, they both said they were open to, quote, "negotiating" with you on this. So tell me what there is to negotiate?

Burris: Well, I am the legally-appointed senator. And what we've been trying to get everyone to recognize that the governor of Illinois has serious problems. God knows he has problems, but he is still the governor. He made a legal appointment. And that's, you know, the end of it. Close the books. That is a legal appointment.

And based on that, I'm hoping that the Senate of the United States will honor that. I mean, it's just that simple.

Blitzer: The lieutenant governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, he told a radio station in Chicago, and I'm paraphrasing now what he said, he said the state of Illinois, in his words, has become an international laughingstock because of what's going on.

How do you react when you hear those kinds of words?

Burris: Well, Wolf, I present myself so that this would not be the case. There is no one in this state, you know, in the Democratic Party, who has the experience that I have in representing our state. I spent 20 years in Springfield. And I've been born and raised in downstate Illinois. Went to school in Illinois.

I know the state. I know the people. And I look upon my appointment by the governor as a solution. And it is all the other, what I would assess to be, you know, the politics of a subject that keep this matter going.

All the people have to do is recognize that we now have a junior senator who is ready, willing, Wolf, and able to go to work on behalf of the 13 million of our great state.

Blitzer: Some of the pundits in Chicago and in Illinois have suggested one of the things they could negotiate, referring to you and the Senate majority leader, perhaps making a commitment only to serve for two years and not seeking a formal election in 2010. Is that reasonable from your perspective?

Burris: Well, Wolf, if you look at my record, I won four times statewide in Illinois. And I never lost a race to a Republican. The races that they're talking about are Democratic primary races where you got the party apparatus at work and thereby we don't have Republicans and independents voting in the Democratic primary.

Whenever I get out of a Democratic primary, guess what, Wolf, I win. And I lead the ticket. My three terms as state controller, I was -- the two terms -- I was the top vote-getter. When I ran for attorney general, we had a gentleman running for governor, a Republican won the governorship, right below was a gentleman running for secretary of state, and a Republican won the secretary of state job, but in between was the attorney general's office, and I won over a very good Republican candidate.

That let's you know what the people of Illinois think about Roland Burris, because I get independent voters, I get Republican voters, and I get the base of the Democratic voters. So I don't know what they're speaking of in reference to they want someone who can be elected, you know, in 2010.

I've not made a decision in that regard yet, but if I do, guess what? I will win.

Blitzer: So at least at this point, you're flatly rejecting this notion of making a commitment right now not to seek election in 2010?

Burris: Yes, this is the first time it has come up. When I made my press conference about three weeks ago, you know, I was thinking in that regard. And guess what my friends and supporters said to me: "Roland, we don't need somebody to warm the seat. You know, you have a statewide base, you've been elected statewide four times. So yes, we want you to run in 2010."

So I'm taking that all under advisement.

Blitzer: All right. One quick question on the issue of race, because it has come up. Is there a racial overtone involved in this whole uproar right now?

Burris: Wolf, some people may seek to inject that in, but permit me to say this, I have never in all of my years in public service injected race into any of my campaigns or any other way. I was elected, I ran up and down this state, I was the first black elected, even when they -- remember they told Barack Obama he was really out of his mind to be running for president? That the white folks weren't going to vote for him?


Well, in 1977, they told me the same thing. Can you imagine, 1977? And here it's 2007? Well, I got that same type of a reception, primarily from blacks. If I'd have listened to them, I never would have been elected.

But in my belief and faith, it's in the then the 11 million people of Illinois, now the 13 million people, and I have never ever played the race the card at any time.

All About Roland BurrisRod BlagojevichHarry Reid

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