What Did Obama Know? When Did He Know It?

Campaign says WashPo misrepresented Obama's comments on accused political fixer.


Jan. 10, 2008— -- After ABC News cited a December 2006 Washington Post story about Sen. Barack Obama's knowledge of legal problems faced by his friend Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the Obama campaign complained that the Post story mischaracterized what Obama had told the Washington Post reporter.

The Post reported that "Obama said that he was unaware of Rezko's brewing troubles in 2005," at the time Obama called Rezko about a real estate deal. Washington Post assistant managing editor Bill Hamilton told ABC News it stood by its reporter's story.

"Our story was accurate and the Obama campaign never raised any questions before," he said.

Obama's knowledge of the extent of the investigation of Rezko, now under federal indictment, is important because it raises questions about his judgment in approaching a man who was under federal investigation.

The Post reported that Obama said he "should have seen some red flags" Here is the full transcript of what Obama said to the Post, as provided by the Obama campaign:

Peter Slevin, Washington Post reporter: You must have been aware he was under investigation, no?

Barack Obama: Well, I'll be honest with you. I've known him for 20 years -- well, let me make sure I'm not exaggerating here, 1991, so, 15 years, I've known him for 15 years. He had never asked me to do anything, had never behaved in any untoward way with me. And, the, you know, I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about these various issues that he was involved with, but as I've said before, there's no doubt that I should have seen some red flags in terms of me purchasing a piece of property from him. Again, my focus was just making sure that the purchase itself met ethical guidelines, but there's no doubt that the optics of it I think – partly – well, no, I'll just stick to that, there's no doubt I should have been more attuned to it.

Slevin: Did you know that he was having trouble then, what was in the newspapers?

Obama: Well, the way -- I was aware of what was in the newspapers, but I certainly was not aware of the serious charges that have subsequently been brought. I had no idea that those kinds of issues would be raised.

Obama also told the Washington Post and other reporters that while his contact with Rezko had been entirely legal, he made "a bone-head mistake" to approach Rezko about a personal business deal because it could appear to be improper.

(This post has been updated.)

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