Saturday, February 11, 2006

First Bush-Abramoff Photo Appears

Here it is, courtesy of the NY Times:

Now here's the Times story:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 — After weeks in which the White House has declined to release pictures of President Bush with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist, the first photograph to be published of the two men shows a small, partly obscured image of Mr. Abramoff looking on from the background as Mr. Bush greets a Texas Indian chief in May 2001.

By itself, the picture hardly seems worthy of the White House's efforts to keep it out of the public eye. Mr. Abramoff, a leading Republican fund-raiser who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to corrupt public officials, is little more than a blurry, bearded figure in the background at a gathering of about two dozen people.

But it provides a window, albeit an opaque one, into Mr. Abramoff's efforts to sell himself to Indian tribes as a man of influence who could open the most secure doors in Washington to them. And it leaves unanswered questions about how Mr. Abramoff and the tribal leader, whom he was trying to sign as a client, gained access to a meeting with the president on the White House grounds that was ostensibly for a group of state legislators who were supporting Mr. Bush's 2001 tax cut plan.

The White House confirmed the authenticity of the photograph. It was provided to The New York Times by the Indian chief, Raul Garza of the Kickapoo tribe of southwest Texas. Mr. Garza, who is under indictment on federal charges of embezzling money from his tribe, said he was eager to demonstrate that he had "nothing to hide" in his dealings with the White House and Mr. Abramoff.

A lawyer for Mr. Garza said Mr. Abramoff arranged for the chief to attend the meeting, in a conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. The meeting took place at a time when the lobbyist was seeking a contract to represent the 800-member tribe and its casino, which was producing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in revenue. Mr. Abramoff never got the contract.


Mr. Garza said he had been offered money from news organizations to reproduce the photograph, which also shows in partial profile Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, at the May 9, 2001, meeting. The chief did not seek payment from The Times for the photo — and two others in which he appears with Mr. Bush — but insisted without explanation that they be published only in black and white.

The picture was taken by a White House photographer.

The president's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Friday that the presence of the lobbyist and Mr. Garza at the meeting, which was organized to thank a group of state legislators who supported the president's 2001 tax cut program, did not suggest that Mr. Abramoff had any special influence at the White House. Mr. Bush has said he cannot recall having met Mr. Abramoff, though the White House has not disputed accounts that Mr. Abramoff came to the White House on a number of occasions.

Mr. McClellan said that Mr. Abramoff's name had not appeared on the invitation list of the May 2001 meeting and that it was unclear how the lobbyist had entered the White House grounds. A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff had no comment on the photograph or on his contacts with Mr. Garza.

It is not clear how Mr. Abramoff might have gotten Mr. Garza included in the president's meeting. White House records show the meeting was also attended by Grover Norquist, a friend of Mr. Abramoff's who is a leading conservative strategist and president of the group Americans for Tax Reform, which was helping to rally support for Mr. Bush's tax cuts, the issue that was the reason for the meeting. A spokesman for Mr. Norquist declined comment on Mr. Norquist's involvement in the meeting.
I love Scottie saying that Abramoff's name wasn't on the guest list and it wasn't clear how Abramoff "Had entered the White House grounds" for the lobbyist meet-and-greet with the prez.

Maybe Trader Jack came in with Jeff Gannon?

Maybe he climbed over the White House gates, crawled to a window and snuck in when nobody was looking?

Or maybe he came in with friend and GOP strategist Grover Norquist, who was also at the meeting?

Jesus, these guys are pathetic.

They should just come clean on the Bush-Abramoff meetings. Tell us how many and what they were for.

They should also come clean on the Abramoff-White House staff/administration officials meetings.

I bet in the long run it will be easier and less damaging to them.

But they won't come clean and we can look forward to months of more rolling disclosures and "newly discovered" Bush-Abramoff photographs.

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