On January 5, Scott McClellan promised a “thorough report” on all Abramoff visits to the White House:
Q Any update on the Abramoff visits to the White House beyond the three parties that he attended?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I indicated yesterday that I think there were some — a few staff-level meetings. But, no, I’m making sure that I have a thorough report back to you on that. And I’ll get that to you, hopefully very soon.
Yesterday, McClellan changed his mind. He said he won’t discuss any visits between Abramoff and White House staff:
Q Specific staff? You were going to get back to us on the specific staff —
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, my understanding from the check that we did was that there are just a few staff-level meetings in addition to those.
Q Who was in the staff meetings?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t get into discussing staff-level meetings.
Why has McClellan decided to stonewall? What he discovered was probably very damaging to the White House. We already know that Abramoff and his team met with administration officials hundreds of time in the first few months of the administration:
In President Bush’s first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws
Also, Bush personally met with Abramoff at least once early in his presidency:
Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated.
The public has the right to know how much access the White House gave to a lobbyist who is admittedly corrupt. The White House press corps should not let this issue drop.