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Abramoff Recalls Bush as a Jokester

The convicted lobbyist, who says the president used to tease him about weightlifting, finds it hard to believe Bush doesn't remember him.

March 09, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff says President Bush knew him well enough to joke with him about weightlifting. "What are you benching, buff guy?" Abramoff said Bush asked him.

The president has said he doesn't know Abramoff.

Abramoff said he found it hard to believe Bush didn't remember the 10 or so photos that he and members of his family had snapped with the president and first lady.

"He [Bush] has one of the best memories of any politician I have ever met," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail, according to Vanity Fair's April issue, to be released this week. "Perhaps he has forgotten everything. Who knows?"

Abramoff pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to charges that he and a former partner, Adam R. Kidan, concocted a fake wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a sizable stake of their own money into a multimillion-dollar purchase of SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet in 2000. Abramoff also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a probe into his ties with members of Congress and the Bush administration.

"I had my picture taken with him, evidently," Bush said of Abramoff on Jan. 26. "I've had my picture taken with a lot of people.

"I frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy," Bush added. "I don't know him."

A few days later, Abramoff wrote to Washingtonian magazine that he had met briefly with the president almost a dozen times and that Bush knew him well enough to make joking references to Abramoff's family.

Abramoff told Vanity Fair that he once was invited to Bush's Texas ranch, where he would have joined with other big Bush fundraisers. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, said he didn't go because the event fell on the Sabbath.

Three former associates of Abramoff have told the Associated Press the lobbyist frequently told them he had strong White House ties through its deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove.

Asked about the former Abramoff associates' accounts, the White House said Rove and Abramoff were leaders of a young Republican group decades ago.

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