Video: The Unpublished Photos

By MSNBC anchor
msnbc.com
updated 2/13/2006 1:28:52 PM ET 2006-02-13T18:28:52

It was two weeks ago when President Bush publicly tried to distance himself from Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist who has pled guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESYou know, I frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy.  I don't know him. 

But according to Abramoff in an email to Kim Eisler of “Washingtonian Magazine” and reported by “The Washington Post” Abramoff said that Bush, “has one of the best memories of any politician I have ever met.  The guy me in almost a dozen settings and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids.”

Eisler says Abramoff was the source of his exclusive report last month that there are at least five photographs of the president and Abramoff together. 

When the story broke, White House officials said Abramoff and President Bush only interacted at holiday parties. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALEWe acknowledge that he attended some Hanukkah receptions.

And President Bush downplayed the significance of any photographs pointing to social interactions with reporters. 

BUSHHaving my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that, you know, I'm a friend with him or know him very well.  I've had my picture taken with you at holiday parties. 

But Eisler has told colleagues that none of the Abramoff-Bush photos he saw at Abramoff's house were from holiday parties. 

According to Eisler, one shows the president shaking hands with Abramoff at a fund-raising reception to the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  Another shows Abramoff's wife with Laura Bush, and another photograph allegedly shows the president with Abramoff inside the old executive office building. 

Jack Abramoff raised $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, and Abramoff has told friends he was on the list of fund-raisers invited to a barbecue three years ago at the president's Texas ranch. 

The latest “Washington Post” poll shows 76 percent of Americans believe the president should disclose all White House contacts and photographs with Abramoff. 

But administration officials say the president's position has not changed. 

BUSHI mean, there are thousands of people that come through and get their pictures taken.  I'm also mindful that we live in a world in which those pictures will be used for pure political purposes. 

Politics though is why the White House takes these photos to begin with. 

Four years ago the White House gave this picture of the president taken on 9-11 to the Republican National Committee so the photo could be copied and sold in a Republican campaign fund-raiser. 

The tape from Jack Abramoff, however, has also reached a top Democrat.  Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid acknowledges writing letters to help Indian tribes, and Reid's staff discussed gambling legislation with Abramoff's lobbying firm during a three year period when the firm gave Reid $68,000 in donations.

But Reid's office says the actions were to protect the interest of Nevada, and a spokesman said, quote, “Senator Reid never met Jack Abramoff and never has taken contributions from him.”

At the White House where Abramoff did meet President Bush, the sharp exchanges between the press corps and the press secretary continues.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALEWould he still then be saying that he does not remember meeting Abramoff on a dozen occasions? 

MCCLELLANYou heard directly from the president on this matter. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALEBut we haven't.  We heard him say he didn't know him.  We didn't know there were as many meetings as this at that time. 

MCCLELLANKeep going.  Go ahead. 

While McClellan would like the subject to change, the questions may keep coming.  A court hearing is coming up for former White House procurement official charged in the Abramoff scandal.

And even Republicans on Capitol Hill say the administration's refusal to detail Abramoff's access is leaving the impression the White House has something to hide. 

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,