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White House logs list only 2 Abramoff visits

Conservative watchdog calls records on ex-lobbyist 'incomplete'

From John King
CNN

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Jack Abramoff arrives at the Federal Justice Building in Miami, Florida, in January to plead guilty to fraud.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Newly released visitor logs show disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was signed in to the White House complex on two occasions since President Bush took office in 2001, including once when the president was out of town.

However, Secret Service officials concede the electronic records are not comprehensive and that Abramoff may have entered the complex on other occasions as a member of a pre-arranged group, which would not show up in the logs.

The logs do not reflect a known meeting between Abramoff and Bush in May 2001 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House, where they were photographed together.

Also, White House aides have previously confirmed that Abramoff attended holiday parties at the White House, as well as some "staff-level meetings" that also are not documented in the logs.

The logs were turned over Wednesday as part of a settlement between the Secret Service and Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that filed suit in February when the agency did not act on its Freedom of Information Act request for the material.

However, in a letter to Judicial Watch accompanying the records, the Justice Department said it was agreeing to hand them over voluntarily "without conceding" that they fall under the provisions of the act.

The president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, said the records -- which showed only the dates and times of Abramoff's White House visits -- appeared "incomplete" when compared to similar logs the group previously obtained.

"We therefore have reason to believe there are additional details about Jack Abramoff's visits to the White House that have not been disclosed," Fitton said in a statement. "What was Jack Abramoff doing at the White House? With whom did he meet? The public deserves to know answers to these questions."

Unlike the Abramoff logs, records from the Clinton administration linked from the Judicial Watch Web site list the "visitee" and the "requestor." They are also marked "material redacted."

The Abramoff logs show his first recorded visit was on the afternoon of March 6, 2001, less than two months after Bush took office. The visit lasted 26 minutes. According to the White House, Bush was in Chicago, Illinois, at the time.

The second recorded visit was on January 20, 2004, the day Bush gave his State of the Union address. The logs show Abramoff entering at 10:40 a.m. and leaving at 11:30 a.m.

The White House has not released any additional information that might shed light on why Abramoff was at the White House, or whom he met during those visits -- refusing to even confirm if officials have gone back and tried to compile that information.

Abramoff's comings and goings at the White House became an issue after Bush said he had little contact with Abramoff -- contradicting an e-mail from the well-connected GOP lobbyist in which he bragged of meeting the president dozens of times.

When reporters in January pressed him on his relationship with Abramoff, the president said, "I've never sat down with him and had a discussion with the guy."

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy charges and received a nearly six-year prison sentence. He has agreed to cooperate in an ongoing corruption investigation on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Neil Volz -- former chief of staff for Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio and a lobbyist with ties to Abramoff -- pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal to cooperate with Justice Department prosecutors and the FBI.

There is one documented encounter between the Bush and Abramoff. On May 9, 2001, Bush and Abramoff were photographed during a small meeting at the Eisenhower building that was attended by the leaders of two Indian tribes Abramoff represented.

After Time magazine published the photo in February, White House spokesman Scott McClellan downplayed the significance of the meeting, noting that Bush had taken "tens of thousands of pictures" during his time in office. (Full story)

The Eisenhower building is part of the White House complex and has the same screening procedures as the White House.

Secret Service officials said the logs released Wednesday reflected visits in which Abramoff was cleared in by a White House staffer and given a security pass after arriving at the gate.

However, in cases where a pre-arranged group is visiting, no electronic record is generated because individual security passes aren't issued, the officials said. Instead, a White House staffer checks off the names on a guest list.

The White House keeps those guests lists but has so far refused to release them.

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