Obama has conceded his simultaneous home purchase with Rezko was a "boneheaded" mistake. He is returning $150,000 raised by Rezko and his associates, and is contributing to charity $72,650 in Rezko contributions. Asked by Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Nov. 11 why he was "associating with such a person," Obama replied, "There was no evidence of wrongdoing," but added, "There's no doubt that it was a mistake on my part." He made clear he had cut off all contact with Rezko "since he got in trouble with the law."
But the case against Rezko prepared by the always determined U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald poses possible new pitfalls for the Democratic front-runner by introducing into the proceedings Auchi, who has been convicted on corruption charges in France and given a suspended sentence. While his friends describe Auchi and his family as victims of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, Pentagon sources call him a "bagman" who laundered money in London for the Iraqi dictator.
Chicago Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Tim Novak asked last week how it was possible for Auchi to get government permission to visit Chicago in 2004 despite his French criminal conviction. Obama aides were quoted as saying Auchi never reached out to the senator, and representatives of both men say neither has any recollection of meeting the other. But the Times of London reported last week that "the two may have had a brief encounter" at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. It is an indistinct part of an indistinct story Hillary Clinton's handlers wish had attracted attention before now.