WASHINGTON – Jack Abramoff had brief conversations with President Bush almost a dozen times and the president knew him well enough to make joking references to Abramoff's family, according to an e-mail the fallen lobbyist sent a magazine editor.
Bush "joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids," Abramoff recalled of his contacts with the president.
The recipient of the e-mail, Washingtonian magazine editor Kim Eisler, confirmed its contents.
Bush's contacts with Abramoff — who has pleaded guilty in a fraud and bribery case and is cooperating with a public corruption investigation — have become an issue because the president has said he doesn't recall ever meeting the lobbyist.
Time magazine and the Washingtonian have reported the existence of about a half-dozen photos showing Abramoff and Bush together.
The president acknowledged having his picture taken with Abramoff but suggested the photos were of no significance because he is photographed with so many people. Bush said there was no reason to publicly release the photographs.
"I frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy," Bush told a news conference on Jan. 26. "I don't know him."
On Thursday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that "what the president said still stands."
Abramoff's e-mail states that Bush "has one of the best memories of any politician I have ever met." The e-mail said that Bush's ability to recall is one of his "trademarks, though of course he can't recall that he has a great memory!"
The e-mail adds, "Perhaps he has forgotten everything. Who knows."
On Friday, Eisler said that Abramoff made the comments more than two weeks ago in response to a question from the magazine editor, who wanted to double-check some information before appearing on a television show.
A liberal Web log, ThinkProgress, first disclosed the existence of the Abramoff-Eisler e-mails this week.