ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: In Chicago today is the first day of Tony Rezko’s federal corruption trial and in San Antonio, presidential candidate Barack Obama was grilled about his relationship with the indicted real estate developer.
Sen. Obama, D-Ill., went through the motions repeating point blank details that were already known about their controversial history, "Tony Rezko was a friend, and supporter of mine for many years. He was a well known business man in the community, as you’re aware of, he supported not just me, but many democrats and republican. He is now in trouble and is on trail for federal corruption charges. Those charges are completely unrelated to me and I don’t think anyone disputes that. What is also true is that I entered into a real estate transaction with him, I bought a strip of land at an adjacent property that he had purchased and I said that that was a mistake because at that point there was already a cloud over Tony Rezko’s head."
Obama said that he has returned all the money, that he can identity, that has been raised by Rezko for his campaign. He admitted that he made an error, as he has in the past.
Obama disputed the claim that there hasn’t been much transparency about this issue and referenced a press conference with Chicago reporters as evidence, a meeting which happened over two years ago in 2006 before he was a presidential candidate, "I took every question. I was there until everybody had satisfied their questions. So I mean, I just want to make that point an issue. You may still have questions, which I’m happy to answer, but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest somehow that we’ve been trying to hide the ball on this."
Then the specific questions came. When asked twice about fundraisers, with details, who was there and how many, Obama did not answer.
"What happens is these requests I think can just go on forever and so at some point what we’ve just tried to do is respond to what’s pertinent to the question that had been raised. There’s no question that he raised money for us and there’s no dispute that we’ve tried to get rid of that money."
Obama said that several hundred stories have been written about this and turned the argument around on his opponent, Hillary Clinton, chalking this up to political tactics this close to the election, "I understand you know, that this is a hot story at this point because there’s a convergence of a trial unrelated to me and the fact that I’m a presidential candidate…. if there’s something additional other than the fact that he’s gone on trial and the Clintons campaign have decided to make this a theme in the last couple of days, I’m happy to answer specific questions."
After about ten questions in a fifteen minute press avail. As he walked away from the podium a slew of questions were barreled at him. He said he was late and had already taken numerous questions.
But a slew of specific questions yielded few new answers from the Senator, just one day before the March 4th primaries, although he claimed, "I’ve been very open that I called it a boneheaded move."