The first really explosive revelation of the Tony Rezko trial came out today, and it will have Barack Obama playing defense yet again. Obama had insisted that he never met Rezko’s shady financier, Iraqi-born Nadhmi Auchi, but a key witness put the two of them together in a 2004 fundraiser. It raises all sorts of questions about how Rezko and Obama raised money for Obama’s Senate bid that year:
When Tony Rezko held a reception at his home for Iraqi-born billionaire Nadhmi Auchi on April 3, 2004, White House hopeful Barack Obama and his wife were also there, Stuart Levine testified just now at Rezko’s trial.
Auchi is the man who provided Rezko a $3.5 million loan that Rezko did not disclose to the court — resulting in his January arrest.
Mr. and Mrs. Obama were there, were they not?” Rezko lawyer Joseph Duffy asked. Yes, sir,” Levine said.
Obama and his aides have said Obama has no recollection of ever meeting Auchi.
Rezko invited Levine to the reception after the two met up with each other during a family vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Rezko had to leave early to arrange for the reception, Levine testified. So Levine offered to rent a larger jet and fly Rezko’s wife and children back to Chicago. That night, they all attended the reception.
Who’s Nadhmi Auchi? I wrote about his connection to Rezko in February. Auchi, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, has a long history of suspicious financial dealings with — among others — Saddam Hussein. He defrauded the French petroleum company Elf and also the UK’s National Health System. Reportedly he served as a spy for MI-6 until the American invasion of Iraq, when the Brits deported him to France to face fraud and corruption charges.
Auchi came to the US supposedly to fund Rezko’s ambitions in the pizza business. He gave Rezko millions of dollars in loans at the same time Rezko and Obama went in together on that real-estate venture that allowed Obama to save money on his current $1.65 million residence. Three weeks after receiving the loan, Rezko was able to partner with Obama to buy two adjoining properties that the seller insisted had to be sold at the same time.
Obama has stated that he never met Auchi. Now it looks like Auchi was buying more than shares in a pizza venture, and that Obama once again has been less than honest about his Rezko ties. Over the last year, Obama has changed his story repeatedly about Rezko’s importance to his political career, with the total of Rezko donations going from $50,000 over eleven years to an admission by Obama just as the trial started last month that the contributions totaled over $250,000.
What will the story be now?
Update: He may have left himself an out in his Chicago Sun-Times interview. He recalled attending a party with a lot of people he didn’t know, but had no recollection of Auchi being one of them:
I have to say I do not recall meeting them. It’s been reported that a dinner Tony hosted at the Four Seasons, I don’t have the exact date, so I don’t know whether it was the before November ’04 when I hadn’t been elected but had already won the primary or whether it was after the election, in which I was …
Tony called and asked if I could stop by because he had a number of friends that he had invited to dinner and he wanted mew to meet them. I told him that I would be happy to come by if my schedule allowed it. And it did. Although I couldn’t, I think, stay for dinner, so I remember meeting a bunch of people who I had not met before. I frankly don’t remember what their names were. Business was not discussed at the meeting. It was more of a social meeting and they asked me questions about the senate race and so fourth and so on.
The only problem with that is that Rezko threw the party in Auchi’s honor. The reception specifically focused on Auchi.