Imagine, for a moment, that you're a top government official. Now imagine that you've just opened your morning paper to find a front-page story in which a lobbyist with whom you've had dealings is said to have milked more than $45 million out of his clients under what appear to be suspicious circumstances. What would you do? Ask for an explanation? Launch an investigation? Look for a way to distance yourself from the lobbyist?
Not if you're David Safavian. When Safavian read that report about Jack Abramoff on the morning of Feb. 22, 2004, he responded by sending the GOP lobbyist an e-mail message asking whether there was "anything" he could do "to help with damage control."
It was too late. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, and Safavian is himself now awaiting trial on charges that he lied to federal officials and investigators looking into his dealings with Abramoff. Meanwhile, Safavian's e-mail messages and Secret Service logs -- both released Wednesday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests -- are shedding new light on the links between Abramoff, Safavian and other Bush administration officials.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, e-mail messages released Wednesday by the Office of Management and Budget show that Abramoff was in "regular contact" with Safavian, "asking for favors and pouring out his heart" even as "lawmakers and the media began exposing details of his business dealings." As the public case against Abramoff grew ever more damning, Safavian wrote to the lobbyist to say, "You're in our thoughts."
Safavian probably wasn't the only one thinking about Abramoff. Secret Service logs released Wednesday show that the lobbyist has visited the White House twice during the Bush years, once in 2001 and a second time in 2004. As the New York Times reports today, Abramoff met with Karl Rove on the first of the visits; an administration official tells the Times that Abramoff met with Rove to discuss the possibility that two individuals would receive positions at the Interior Department. In the second visit, the Times says, Abramoff met with an OMB official about the possibility of purchasing Washington's Old Post Office building.
As we noted Wednesday, Scott McClellan has acknowledged that Abramoff has met with White House officials more times than the Secret Service logs would suggest. A White House spokeswoman had no explanation Wednesday when asked why the Secret Service logs didn't square with McClellan's account. However, the Times says that two other administration officials said that the White House had simply "decided" that its agreement with Judicial Watch to release the records didn't require it to produce more complete logs.