News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Lawmakers Push Bush on Abramoff Contacts -

By NEDRA PICKLER , 01.29.2006, 10:51 AM

Republican lawmakers said Sunday that President Bush should publicly disclose White House contacts with Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to felony charges in an influence-peddling case.

Releasing the records would help eliminate suspicions that Abramoff, a top fundraiser for Bush's re-election campaign, had undue influence on the White House, the Republicans said.

"I'm one who believes that more is better, in terms of disclosure and transparency," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. "And so I'd be a big advocate for making records that are out there available."

The president has refused to reveal how much access Abramoff had to the White House, but has said he does not know Abramoff personally. Bush has said federal prosecutors are welcome to see the records of Abramoff's contacts if they suspect something inappropriate, but he has not released them publicly.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who appeared with Thune on "Fox News Sunday,", said all White House correspondence, phone calls and meetings with Abramoff "absolutely" should be released.

"I think this president is a man of unimpeachable integrity," Pence said. "The American people have profound confidence in him. And as Abraham Lincoln said, `Give the people the facts and republican governance perhaps will be saved.'"

Bush's spokesman has said Abramoff was admitted to the White House complex for "a few staff-level meetings" and Hanukkah receptions in 2001 and 2002. The White House will not say how many times the lobbyist came in, who he met with or what business he had there.

Bush said he had his picture taken with Abramoff an unknown number of times, but he said he doesn't remember taking them and the two never sat down and had a discussion. Bush said he has had his photo taken with thousands of people, but that doesn't mean he knows them well.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., played down the notion that Bush was beholden to Abramoff because of a few donations. But Hagel said Bush should release the photos to avoid giving Democrats unnecessary political ammunition.

"Get it out. Get it out. Come on," Hagel said, adding the photos will eventually leak out anyway.

"I mean, disclosure is the real issue. Whether it's campaign finance issues, whether it's ethics issues, whether it's lobbying issues, disclosure is the best and most effective way to deal with all of these things," he said on ABC's "This Week."

Thune said pictures should not be released because it is clear that Democrats would use any pictures of Bush with Abramoff for political purposes.

"But I do think it's important that everybody understand what this guy's level of involvement was," Thune said.

Democrats have complained about Bush's refusal to disclose White House dealings with Abramoff, who represented six Indian tribes with casinos and several other clients.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, made it clear that Abramoff's relationship with Republicans will be an issue in this year's congressional campaign.

"If the American people will put us back in power in '06, we will have on the president's desk things that outlaw all those kinds of behavior," Dean said on Fox.

But the comments from the Republicans, who hold the majority in Congress, show that it's not just Democrats who would like to see Bush come clean.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday, 76 percent of those surveyed said the Bush administration should provide a list of all meetings any White House officials have had with Abramoff. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure, according to the poll. Prosecutor Pulled Off Abramoff -- Feb. 06, 2006 -- Page 1

Is it just a coincidence that the head of the corruption probe into the Abramoff scandal is getting a new job?
When Noel Hillman, head of the corruption probe surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, stepped down last week after President Bush nominated him for a federal judgeship in New Jersey, some couldn't help wondering whether the appointment's timing was just coincidence or the calculated removal of an aggressive prosecutor from an explosive case. Sources at the Justice Department tell Time it's the former--the nomination had been in the works for nearly a year. Hillman, chief of the Office of Public Integrity since 2003, says he asked to be replaced once the nomination was announced. "The chief of Public Integrity," he tells Time, "should come into the office every day and say, 'How many bad guys can I put away today?' without unnecessary distractions."

But "the timing is an issue," admits a Justice official close to the case. Hillman's resignation comes as the investigation is gathering momentum and, with Abramoff's cooperation, expanding its scope. Hillman will stay on at Justice as an adviser while he awaits Senate confirmation, veteran prosecutor Andrew Lourie will temporarily take charge of the probe, and the rest of the team on the case isn't changing, says department spokesman Bryan Sierra. But the loss of the independent-minded, hands-on Hillman--he attended most of the negotiation meetings with Abramoff and co-conspirator Michael Scanlon--has renewed calls on Capitol Hill for a special prosecutor to take over. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York expressed worry last week that because the Administration "might have something to risk" in the probe, "they may choose a particular type of person," perhaps someone less aggressive, to head up the case. Hillman seems glad to leave Washington's battles behind. An avid surfer who grew up catching waves on the Jersey Shore, he recently passed up a trip with friends to the Bahamas because he had too much work. Besides, there were barracuda in the Bahamian waters, he jokes--"kinda like D.C."


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