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Plausible deniability going up in smoke

So, shall we start taking bets on how long it will take for Scott McClellan to go fetal during the White House press briefing when these photos of Bush and Jack Abramoff surface? Remember, the Chimperor says he hasn’t met the now-radioactive lobbyist. (Time):

Peppered for days with questions about Abramoff’s visits to the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the now disgraced lobbyist had attended two huge holiday receptions and a few “staff-level meetings” that were not worth describing further. “The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him,” McClellan said.

The President’s memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush’s aides have downplayed. While TIME’s source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them.

…In one shot that TIME saw, Bush appears with Abramoff, several unidentified people and Raul Garza Sr., a Texan Abramoff represented who was then chairman of the Kickapoo Indians, which owned a casino in southern Texas. Garza, who is wearing jeans and a bolo tie in the picture, told TIME that Bush greeted him as “Jefe,” or “chief” in Spanish. Another photo shows Bush shaking hands with Abramoff in front of a window and a blue drape. The shot bears Bush’s signature, perhaps made by a machine. Three other photos are of Bush, Abramoff and, in each view, one of the lobbyist’s sons (three of his five children are boys). A sixth picture shows several Abramoff children with Bush and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is now pushing to tighten lobbying laws after declining to do so last year when the scandal was in its early stages.

Now how do you suppose the President “forgot” about all these meetings, however brief? Unfortunately there isn’t even wiggle room left for The Weasel in Chief to claim a faulty memory, according to The Washingtonian.

Sources say the photographs are being kept safe. Abramoff would tell prosecutors, if asked, that not only did he know the President, but the President knew the names of Abramoff’s children and asked about them during their meetings. At one such photo session, Bush discussed the fact that both he and Abramoff were fathers of twins.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding