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Is Woodward Calling Bush a Liar?

"After that game, Mr. Abramoff described Mr. Rove in an e-mail message to a colleague: 'He's a great guy. Told me anytime we need something just let him know through Susan.' The message was referring to Susan Ralson, Mr. Abramoff's former secretary, who joined the White House in February 2001 as Mr. Rove's executive assistant.

"Ms. Ralston, who did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday, was lobbied scores of times by Mr. Abramoff and his partners, the report found, and was instrumental in passing messages between Mr. Abramoff and senior officials at the White House, including Mr. Rove and Ken Mehlman. . . .

"On learning in July 2002 that Mr. Rove planned to dine at Signatures with a party of 8 to 10 people, Mr. Abramoff wrote to a colleague: 'I want him to be given a very nice bottle of wine and have Joseph whisper in his ear (only he should hear) that Abramoff wanted him to have this wine on the house.' In another e-mail message, Mr. Abramoff directed his restaurant staff to 'please put Karl Rove in his usual table.'

"[Dana] Perino, the White House spokeswoman, said the offer of a free bottle of wine was actually proof of how little acquainted Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Rove were because 'Karl doesn't drink alcohol.'"

Peter Wallsten and Walter F. Roche Jr. write in the Los Angeles Times: "A news release from [the committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III]'s office said the 95-page report revealed only 'scant and circumstantial evidence that Abramoff's encounters and entreaties had a dispositive impact on administration policy or personnel decisions.' But it singled out Ralston -- Rove's assistant and Abramoff's former employee -- who was lobbied 69 times, the most contacts with any individual named in the report. She also received numerous tickets to concerts and sporting events.

"'Her role in brokering requests to Rove from her former boss raises questions . . . about some of her activities,' the release said."

Susan Schmidt notes in The Washington Post: "The report did not determine how many of those contacts -- referenced in e-mails and Abramoff's often falsified client bills -- actually occurred. . . .

"'The only thing this report demonstrates is what a lot of us already know: Jack Abramoff had a penchant for exaggerating and charging his clients for minor contacts with government officials,' White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said."

Here's McClellan on January 17, responding to a question about Abramoff's contacts with the White House: "I checked on this. What I was asked is to go and check on this, and I did. And there were only a couple of holiday receptions that he attended, and then a few staff-level meetings on top of that. And that's the way I would describe it.

"Now, what I can't do is go and say with absolute certainty that he did not have any other visits. We did a check at your request and what I have learned from that request is exactly what I am telling you."

As for Rove, McClellan said "he knows Mr. Abramoff. They are both former heads of the College Republicans. That's how they got to know each other way back, I think it was in the early '80s. And my understanding is that Karl would describe it as more of a casual relationship, than a business relationship. That's what he has said."

George Stephanopoulos reports for ABC News: "Outside his home in Washington, D.C., Karl Rove commented exclusively to ABCNews on his dealings with Jack Abramoff.


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