The number of “government agencies, from local Louisiana parishes to the White House, [that] reported that New Orleans levees were breached Aug. 29, the day Hurricane Katrina roared ashore.” The Bush administration was first informed at 8:30 ET on August 29; Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claimed at the time he learned of the breach “midday” on August 30.
Washingtonian editor Kim Eisler, the recipient of the Abramoff email first published by ThinkProgress, appeared tonight on CNN’s Situation Room. Despite Scott McClellan’s insistence earlier today that Bush and Abramoff did not have a relationship, Eisler shows how the facts prove otherwise.
BLITZER: What about the president? What kind of relation did the President have with him?
EISLER: Well, the President, as — had already been established that there there were at least six to ten pictures of Abramoff with the President. There’s a picture of Abramoff’s wife with Laura Bush. In one of the meetings, it was not at a Christmas or Hanukkah party as the White House keeps insisting, but in fact was taken in the Old Executive Office building where Jack had taken several of his clients up to shake hands with the President…
BLITZER: So did you get the sense, based on your conversations, your e-mail with Jack Abramoff that if the resident saw Jack Abramoff, he’d know who he is?
EISLER: He definitely knows who he is. Jack was a pioneer who raised a hundred thousand dollars for his campaign.
BLITZER: A pioneer is a big-giver of the Republican party -
EISLER: Every time the president would look at the list of the campaign contributors, Jack’s name was the first on the list because it starts with ‘AB.’ The second thing is that he discussed with Jack on numerous occasions the fact that Jack has twin daughters and so does the President have twin daughters and that was a point of commonality between the two of them.
Read Abramoff’s emails to Eisler here.
Reuters has published a story on the Abramoff email, “Abramoff Says Bush Met, Even Joked, With Him.” The report is headlining MSNBC.com:
First published by ThinkProgress yesterday. Tune in.
In our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Jack Abramoff has been doing some emailing, in which he talks about his relationship with President Bush, a relationship the president says simply doesn’t exist. We’re going to look closer at the emails and all angles of this story.
During today’s press briefing, Scott McClellan was asked to respond to claims made by Jack Abramoff in an email published yesterday on ThinkProgress.
Reporter Victoria Jones asked whether President Bush was sticking by his assertion that he does not remember meeting Jack Abramoff in light of the Abramoff email, which discuss “almost a dozen” meetings with the President.
McClellan dodged the question, falsely claiming that Bush had already addressed the issue, but did not dispute the validity of Abramoff’s email. Watch it:
JONES: Back at the January press conference the President said he didn’t know Jack Abramoff. Abramoff’s saying he met with the President in nearly a dozen settings and that the President joked with him “about a bunch of things, including details of Abramoff’s kids. He also says the President has one of the best memories of any politician he’s ever met. Does that help the President perhaps to remember that there were many meetings at which he met Jack Abramoff?
MCCLELLAN: I think what the President says still stands. Mr. Abramoff is someone who was involved in wrongdoing. He acknowledged that himself. He is being brought to account and there’s an investigation going on by the Justice Department. They are continuing to pursue the matter and go after anybody else that was involved in wrongdoing. 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.
JONES: Would he still then be saying that he does not remember meeting Abramoff on a dozen occasions?
MCCLELLAN: You heard directly from the president on this matter. Go ahead –
JONES: No, we haven’t. We didn’t know there were as many meetings as this at that time.
MCCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Two prominent Republicans – Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) — this week came out in support of congressional investigation and oversight into President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program.
What the traditional media has ignored thus far is that new Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) supports a congressional investigation as well. He announced his support on a blogger conference call last week:
Jon Henke: Mr. Congressman, on the NSA warrantless surveillance issue, do you believe the President has the inherent authority to do what he has been doing? Or do you think we need to codify the process somehow?
Rep. John A. Boehner: I think that it’s unclear to me. Now the President, clearly, and his people believe that they have the ability to do this and frankly I’m very interested in hearings to see in how, I mean they’ve attempted to justify it, but frankly I want to make, if it’s not clear in the law or Constitution today, it ought to be made clear in a law or the Constitution that he can do this and what the limits are. But at this point, I’m not, it’s not clear in my mind under that he has, under what authority he has to get it done.
Jon Henke: Would you support an investigation to look into that question?
Rep. John A. Boehner: I would. I’d think it would be of interest of all Americans to get to the bottom of how does this happen? Under what authority? And what are the protections?
Someone also may want to notify Karl Rove.
that he “had been ‘authorized’ by Cheney and other White House ‘superiors’ in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration’s use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq,” Murray Waas reports. (Via C&L)
“Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits…The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.”
In an interview yesterday, Washingtonian editor Kim Eisler confirmed to ThinkProgress that he has viewed several photographs of President Bush with Jack Abramoff. Eisler, who authored a book on tribal politics and is an associate of Abramoff’s, says he saw the photos during a visit to Abramoff’s house where they were “just sitting in his office.”
The White House has continually refused to release photos of President Bush with Jack Abramoff. Moreover, Press Secretary Scott McClellan has said that if photos of the two together exist, they are shots taken at “widely attended” Hanukkah receptions in 2001 and 2002. But according to Eisler, none of the photos in Abramoff’s office were taken at Hanukkah receptions.
One photo at Abramoff’s home depicts Bush shaking hands with Abramoff in the Old Executive Office Building, which is adjacent to the West Wing of the White House. Another photograph shows Bush with Abramoff at what appears to be the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. A third photo, which previously has not been disclosed, is of Abramoff’s wife with Laura Bush.
This was first reported in our morning newsletter The Progress Report (sign up in the box to the right). Check ThinkProgress later today for more new details on the Abramoff scandal.
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine that the legal requirement for Bush’s domestic wiretapping program is no lower than the “probable cause” requirement of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
GONZALES: The standard is a probable cause standard. It is reasonable grounds to…
DEWINE: A probable cause standard. Is that different than probable cause as we would normally learn that in law school…
GONZALES: Not in my judgment.
DEWINE: OK. So that means…
GONZALES: I think it’s probable cause. But it’s not probable cause as to guilt.
DEWINE: I understand.
GONZALES: Or probable cause as to a crime being committed. It’s probable cause that a party to the communication is a member or agent of Al Qaida. The precise language that I’d like to refer to is, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that a party to communication is a member or agent or Al Qaida or of an affiliated terrorist organization.” It is a probable cause standard, in my judgment.
But the Justice Department told a different story to the FISA Court judges in order to get their approval of the program. According to the Washington Post, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former NSA Director Michael Hayden told the FISA Court that the “probable cause” legal burden was too difficult to meet:
They made clear that, in such a broad hunt for suspicious patterns and activities, the government could never meet the FISA court’s probable-cause requirement, government officials said.
This wouldn’t be the first time Gonzales has misled the Judiciary Committee about the program. Perhaps Gonzales needs to return to the committee to clarify his answers – this time, under oath. More at Americablog.