Politics

Abramoff Interview: Lobbyist Details Relationship With Bush, DeLay, Burns

Vanity Fair is set to publish an in-depth interview with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff sheds new light on his close relationships with top conservatives, including some not typically associated with the Abramoff scandals like Ken Mehlman and Newt Gingrich. Some choice quotes:

On President Bush:

President Bush, who claims not to remember having his picture taken with Abramoff. According to Abramoff, at one time, the president joked with Abramoff about his weight lifting past: “What are you benching, buff guy?”

On former Rove deputy Ken Mehlman:

According to documents obtained by Vanity Fair, Mehlman exchanged e-mail with Abramoff, and did him political favors (such as preventing Clinton administration alumnus Allen Stayman from keeping a State Department job), had Sabbath dinner at Abramoff’s house, and offered to pick up Abramoff’s tab at Signatures, Abramoff’s own restaurant.

On Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX):

Abramoff has “admired Tom DeLay and his family from the first meeting with him,” he tells Margolick. “We would sit and talk about the Bible. We would sit and talk about opera. We would sit and talk about golf,” Abramoff recalls. “I mean, we talked about philosophy and politics.”

On Newt Gingrich:

Newt Gingrich, whose spokesman Rick Tyler tells Margolick that “Before [Abramoff’s] picture appeared on TV and in the newspapers, Newt wouldn’t have known him if he fell across him. He hadn’t seen him in 10 years.” A rankled Abramoff says “I have more pictures of [Newt] than I have of my wife.”

On Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT):

Abramoff says: “Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns’s committee] we got. Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria. I mean, it’s a little difficult for him to run from that record.”

Despite the magnitude of his crimes, however, Abramoff says that imprisoning him would only deprive society of his teaching and/or janitorial talents:

Abramoff … tells [Vanity Fair] that sending him to prison is “stupid,” saying, “Let me teach English, history, music. Or let me sweep floors at the reservation. Instead you’ll be paying to feed me to sit in a jail.”

More here.