February 9, 2006

Abramoff says he met Bush “almost a dozen” times

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jack Abramoff said in correspondence
made public on Thursday that President Bush met him "almost a
dozen" times, disputing White House claims Bush did not know
the former lobbyist at the center of a corruption scandal.

"The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with
me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids.
Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows," Abramoff wrote
in an e-mail to Kim Eisler, national editor for the
Washingtonian magazine.

Abramoff added that Bush also once invited him to his Texas

The messages were made public by the American Progress
Action Fund, a liberal activist group. Eisler confirmed their
accuracy to Reuters but said he did not intend them to become

"They reflect the feeling of frustration he has not just
with Bush but with all these guys claiming they didn't know
him," said Eisler, who knew Abramoff through a book he wrote
about the Pequot Indian tribe.

Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in early January
and is cooperating with prosecutors in a corruption probe that
could implicate lawmakers and officials across Washington.

Bush has said he never had a discussion with Abramoff and
does not remember having his picture taken with him.

The White House has said Abramoff attended three Hanukkah
receptions at the White House.

Eisler said he had seen five photographs of Abramoff with
Bush, none taken at Hanukkah parties.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Thursday that
the revelations did not prove Bush knew him well.

"I think as the president also indicated, he's taken at
least five photos with many people in this room at the annual
holiday reception. And so I think you need to put this in
context," McClellan said.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum declined to comment.

Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for Bush's 2004
re-election campaign, a feat that won him an invitation to
Bush's ranch in August 2003, the National Journal reported at
the time.

"I was invited during the 2004 campaign," Abramoff told

Abramoff said he did not make the trip because as an
Orthodox Jew he cannot travel on Saturdays.

In the wake of Abramoff's indictment, the Bush-Cheney
campaign said it would donate to charity $6,000 in
contributions made by Abramoff or his clients, but not the
money he helped raise.

The White House has acknowledged he participated in a few
staff-level meetings at the White House.

Although the Abramoff scandal has mostly focused attention
so far on prominent House Republicans, including former
Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, at least two Bush
administration officials have been implicated.

David Safavian, a former White House budget official, has
been charged with lying and obstructing investigations into his
2002 golf outing to Scotland with Abramoff.

Stephen Griles, the former No. 2 official at the Interior
Department, has come under scrutiny after allegations he tried
to block a casino at Abramoff's request.