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What is Bush hiding? The Abramoff scandal widens…

We have previously blogged on it, and President Bush has now admitted it – that photographs exist of him with disgraced felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. What do these photographs show, and what exactly is the president’s relationship to one of the most notoriously corrupt lobbyists in Washington history?

Clearly, Mr. Bush does not want us to know. At a press conference yesterday he made clear he will not authorize  release of any photographs, calling them “not relevant,” explaining tersely that “it’s part of the job of the president to shake hands with people and smile.” He then refused to discuss any details of the meetings Abramoff reportedly attended with White House staffers, although he said that federal prosecutors are “welcome” to look into the matter if they want to.

Most outrageous of all, though, is the president’s assertion, when asked whether he had ever been personally lobbied by Abramoff. "I, frankly, don’t even remember having my picture taken with the guy. I don’t know him….”

President Bush doesn’t even know him?? We are talking about the most connected Republican lobbyist in Washington during the Bush administration. A man well known by every Republican power-broker in town. A man who has long-standing personal ties with top Republican operatives like Grover Norquist and Bush’s primary political advisor, Karl Rove. Someone who attended meetings with White House staffers, and successfully placed his own associates in executive branch jobs. Someone who bundled more than $100,000 in contributions for Bush in his last campaign, earning the title of "Pioneer." And President Bush claims to not even know him… and then flat out refuses to discuss the matter or release any information??

If we are ever going to get to the bottom of the current corruption scandal, President Bush must be compelled to release all records of his administration’s dealings with Abramoff. In a new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, more than three-quarters of those asked – 76% – agree that Bush should release all the records of his meetings with Abramoff.

The stonewalling and cover-up in the Abramoff affair must end. Look for more on this hot story in the days to come.

-Gordon Clark