Were both Blago and Obama lying about Auchi?

Federal prosecutors were successful in revoking Tony Rezko’s bond in early 2008 when they found out the infamous Illinois fixer had taken $3.5 million from British/Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi without telling the court.

Auchi is a controversial figure closely linked to Saddam Hussein over the years. For background on Auchi, check here and here.

It’s a puzzlement how Auchi got into the United States in 2004 and when he tried to get back in 2005 he was blocked by the U.S. However, Patrick Fitzgerald’s prosecutors noted that Tony tried to enlist several Illinois politicians to help get around the ban in 2005.

Who was Tony closest to in 2005? Yep, U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Here’s what they told the Chicago Sun-Times in early 2008.

On Monday, prosecutors said that, in 2005, Rezko “directly appealed to the State Department” and, “it appears, asked certain Illinois government officials” to let Iraqi-born billionaire Nadhmi Auchi enter this country. At the time, Auchi was “unable to enter the United States” because of a criminal conviction in France. His sentence “was suspended as long as Auchi committed no new crimes.”

Aides to Obama and Blagojevich said Monday that Rezko never requested — nor did they deliver — any help to Auchi, whose business empire includes 62 acres in the South Loop that Rezko’s development company once owned.

So if you believe the Obama and Blagojevich aides, Tony never asked his two best friends in politics to help him do a favor for Tony’s most important business partner?

The Sun-Times apparently didn’t buy the answer either and asked Obama again at an editorial board visit a couple weeks later.

Q: Did you ever help Auchi enter the country?
A: No
Q: Or your office?
A: “Not that I know of.”

A cynic would say that sounds Clintonian. A journalist might have followed with “How would you not know if a staffer was trying to get an alleged Saddam Hussein business partner around a State Department ban?”

The notion that Rezko wouldn’t turn to Obama and Rezko for help is further eroded by the facts of Auchi’s April 3, 2004, visit to Chicago. Rezko hosted a reception for Auchi where guess who attended? Yep, Blagojevich and Obama. In Obama’s case, he first didn’t remember attending then told the Sun-Times that yes, Tony asked him to go and he went but just doesn’t remember much of anything.

Q: Did you ever meet Nadhmi Auchi or Dr. Aiham Alsammarae?
A: 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.
I have no specific recollection. They may have been there. I can’t say unequivocally that I did not meet them, but I just don’t recall.

The reception in 2004 was important to Rezko because he was trying to convince Auchi to buy a 62-acre parcel in the South Loop that amounted to all of Rezko’s crumbling empire. When he needed Blago’s and Obama’s help, they were there.

When Tony needed political muscle to get Auchi back in the country, who would he have turned to?

Blago and Obama have given their answers on this question but journalists should not believe them. Their denials are beyond suspect.

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