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Monday, April 17, 2006

Red-handed! 278 E-Mails Said to Link Abramoff, White House

Oops! Email correspondence indelibly connects the White House to the humongous Abramoff corruption scheme. Too bad Johnny Cochran's no longer around to get the prison-bound writers, Abramoff and Safavian, off a la O.J. But, hey, there's still Judge Ito. -hl



A batch of 278 e-mails between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a Bush administration official show a highly inappropriate relationship where gifts and business interests mixed freely and frequently, federal prosecutors said Friday.

The prosecutors hope to use the e-mails in the criminal case against David Safavian, who is accused of lying and obstruction of justice in connection with investigations of an Abramoff-sponsored golf outing to Scotland in August 2002.

The e-mails show that Abramoff and Safavian, then chief of staff at the General Services Administration, were in frequent contact, played golf often and traded workplace gossip. Abramoff showered Safavian with offers of meals, invitations to parties as well as the trip to the fabled St. Andrew's golf course in Scotland.


One message from Abramoff, sent July 23, 2002, asks Safavian, "golf Friday? golf Sunday? golf Monday? golf, golf, golf!!"

At the same time, Abramoff is peppering Safavian with questions and requests for his help on a variety of projects, including obtaining parcels of federal land that were managed by GSA for Abramoff's charitable groups.

"The e-mails demonstrate that Mr. Safavian's relationship with Mr. Abramoff was highly inappropriate," prosecutors wrote in a court filing accompanying the e-mails.

Prosecutors and Safavian's attorneys are engaged in a legal fight over how much of this material should be shown to the jury during Safavian's upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin May 22.

Barbara Van Gelder, a lawyer for Safavian, described the court filing as "a press release that allows the government to place inadmissible hearsay documents into the public record right before trial."

Van Gelder said that while Abramoff offered Safavian meals, trips and sports tickets, the "evidence shows that Mr. Safavian either declined the offers or paid for the expense with his own money. There is no conspiracy. There is no agreement. This is the government's attempt to inflate a flat case with hot air."

Sometimes Safavian responds to Abramoff with an invitation of his own, insisting in one instance that they play golf at Safavian's club in Springfield, Va. On another occasion, just after the Scotland trip, Safavian told Abramoff that he recommended the lobbyist to an architectural and engineering firm that wanted to become eligible for federal contracts. He titled his e-mail, "Client Development."

When Abramoff invited Safavian and his wife to have their anniversary dinner at Abramoff's Signatures restaurant in downtown Washington, Safavian declined, saying he was preparing veal cutlets a la suisse at home.

Van Gelder has said that the government has been trying to pressure Safavian to provide information about Abramoff and others who are part of the wide-ranging investigation of lobbying fraud and public corruption.

Abramoff is cooperating with federal investigators. He pleaded guilty in January to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

The e-mails also reveal that in early 2002 Safavian thought about leaving his congressional staff job for Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig. Abramoff strongly supported that idea, but Safavian apparently never received an offer, according to the e-mails.


"Just spoke with Fred. He asked what I am going to do. I told him I was leaning towards GSA, but was waiting to hear back from GT. Unfortunately he didn't talk any numbers," Safavian wrote Abramoff on April 30.

An hour later, Abramoff replied: "This is crap. Should I call Fred right now? you should get a ... offer!!! Idiots over here!!"

Instead, Safavian moved from Congress to the General Services Administration.

The two men also looked for opportunities to get Abramoff together with GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry. Safavian tells Abramoff the GSA July 4 party would be a good place to meet Perry. Abramoff at one point suggests bringing Perry along to Scotland. Perry was not part of that trip.