CANDY CROWLEY, SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, that’s the easy question. If it’s, do these e-mails tell a different story? The answer is most definitely yes.
Crowley also mentioned possible implications in the Abramoff investigation for the White House: “The federal probe has instead been focused on the actions of some members of Congress and their staffs, but there have been what the source called ‘interchanges’ between Abramoff and investigators about members of the Bush administration.”
Full transcript below:
BLITZER: Welcome back. President Bush has said he doesn’t really know Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty last month to corruption charges. To Mr. Bush he was another guy at the end of a handshake, a smiling face in a grip and grin photo op. But do e-mail from Abramoff tell a different story? Let’s turn to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that’s the easy question. If it is do these e-mails tell a different story? The answer is most definitely yes.
CROWLEY (voice-over): He’s off-camera these days but Jack Abramoff still knows his way around a computer keyboard. Portions of his e-mails to a Washington journalist are making the rounds, surfacing first on a liberal blog and confirmed by CNN, the snippets include this one, Abramoff describing his relationship with President Bush.
“The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings and joked with me a bunch of things including details about my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows?
BUSH: You know, I frankly don’t even remember my picture being taken with the guy. I don’t know him.
CROWLEY: A source close to Abramoff talks about six pictures of Abramoff and/or his family with the president in various settings.
MCCLELLAN: I think what the president said 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.
CROWLEY: It’s not like they were friends, the source said, of the president and the lobbyist but Jack was at the White House on a number of occasions. In his e-mails, Abramoff also talks of being invited to but not attending a fund-raiser in Crawford. In a town where the grip and grin is the native waltz and the offices of politicians, lobbyists and journalists are plastered with power pictures, people who have spoken with Abramoff say he’s amused by the to-do over the photos.
And in fact the discrepancy of memory between the president and the lobbyist is a P.R. problem, not a legal one. A well-placed source says the ongoing Justice Department investigation is not looking at the president as anyone who did something wrong with Jack Abramoff.
CROWLEY (on camera): The federal probe has been instead focused on the actions of some members of Congress and their staffs. But there have been what source called interchanges between Abramoff and investigators about members of the Bush administration. Wolf?