Convicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff influenced White House actions while his firm wooed administration officials over expensive meals and plied them with sports tickets, according to a House of Representatives committee report released Monday.
Abramoff, who's cooperating with federal prosecutors after pleading guilty in an expanding corruption investigation, previously had reported that his firm had more than 400 contacts with White House officials.
After receiving new White House documents and speaking with witnesses, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Monday that staffers had verified 80 of the contacts Abramoff reported and uncovered 70 others despite White House assertions that Abramoff had overblown his administration connections. The report also detailed unreleased photos of Abramoff meeting with President Bush on six occasions. Bush has said he doesn't remember Abramoff.
"The new documents and testimony show that Mr. Abramoff had personal contact with President Bush, that high-level White House officials held Mr. Abramoff and his associates in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff on policy matters," the committee said.
The committee, however, added that it had "obtained no evidence" that Abramoff lobbied the president directly.
Administration officials have denied repeatedly that Abramoff held any sway over the administration. They asserted that Abramoff's claims of contact, as reported in billing records to Indian tribe clients, demonstrated his propensity for exaggeration.
On Monday, White House spokesman Tony Fratto called the report "warmed-up leftovers" and questioned the news media's interest in it.
Am I alone in wondering how it is that such a thing is possible? I was alive during the 1990s, and if the shoe were on the other foot, the outcry over those photos and the indignation over such a ridiculous "can't remember" denial would be everywhere. As in, on TV, in the newspapers, why, even in them there magazines they used to have. There would be a special counsel appointed by 4 PM in order to get to the bottom of where those photos exist and what the chain of custody of them is in terms of the White House Office of the Special Photographer and all that. There would be teams of FBI agents poring over the South Lawn by dinner time.
Granted, there really wasn't much of an Internet back then, but come on. If this was 1995, we'd hear screaming and chest beating from conservatives to see those photos and to "hear the oval office tapes" of any and all conversations between Abramoff and the President.
Even if there really weren't any...