Nadhmi Auchi, then-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich,
and Aiham Alsammarae at Four Seasons in Chicago.
The good news is there is a newly-discovered interest in vetting Barack Obama. The sad news is that the focus is long overdue.
However, there is some good news. More than four years ago, I did a lot of the same heavy lifting many folks are attempting to do now. Thanks to the RezkoWatch/RBO archive, all of the old news is now new news.
Between March and August 2008, I wrote a series of articles about Obama’s possible/alleged/denied/actual Chicago meeting in April 2004 with Iraqi British billionaire investor Nadhmi Auchi.
I pieced together related articles to tell what was then known of the “whole story”. Keep in mind, the information is progressive and detailed as the story unfolded. Note that many links are now inactive but have been left in place for those who wish to check for them elsewhere on the internet or via the Wayback Machine. Also, only minor tweaks or status updates have been added to the original articles to clarify points or put things in their proper context.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Until millionaire attorney Stuart Levine’s March 19, 2008 testimony during political fixer Antoin “Tony” Rezko’s fraud trial, the guest list for the April 3, 2004, dinner at Chicago’s Four Seasons honoring Nadhmi Auchi had been short on details. Thanks to Levine, the guest list was appended.
“In earlier testimony, Levine described a vacation with the Rezko family from March 27 to April 3, 2004, which Rezko left two days early, because he had to arrange a party” for Nadhmi Auchi.
On March 19, 2008, Levine testified that he “met up with Rezko’s family on a 2004 Puerto Vallarta spring-break trip.” Levine said Rezko “had to return” to Chicago “in the first week in April” to organize the April 3, 2004 “reception for an Iraqi-born billionaire whom Rezko was trying to get to invest in a big development he planned in the South Loop.”
A flight manifest displayed by the prosecution showed Levine “had shuttled Rezko’s family back from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on April 3, 2004, after they both vacationed there separately, but did meet up for dinner. Rezko was not on the flight because he left April 1 to arrange an April 3 party for an ‘Iraqi billionaire’ he hoped to do business with. Court documents have identified that billionaire as Nadhmi Auchi.”
Levine testified that after the dinner, “Auchi did invest in the 62-acre site.”
- Levine testified he was one of the dinner guests. He said others included Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, business and economic development department director Jack Lavin and [Christopher] Kelly, [Blagojevich fundraiser and once his point man on gambling in Illinois].
Note: Pat Quinn is now the Governor of Illinois and Jack Lavin is Quinn’s chief of staff. Christopher Kelly, a key figure in the Blagojevich federal corruption investigation, died in September 2009. A few months earlier, in June, the former Blagojevich fundraiser had been sentenced to 37 months in jail.
Also present was Michael Rumman, a “co-investor in a Rezko project and then the head of the Illinois office of Central Management Services”.
Unfortunately, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher S. Niewoehner “did not press Levine for a complete guest list.”
However, we do know from earlier information that besides Tony Rezko and Nadhmi Auchi, Blagojevich, and Rezko’s former classmate and business partner, and former Iraqi minister of electricity, Aiham Alsammarae, were present. (See photo above.)
Oh. Yes. And quite possibly, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) dropped in.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? II
Based on Levine’s testimony in the Rezko federal fraud trial, the possible guest list for the April 3, 2004 dinner expanded to include the guest of honor, Nadhmi Auchi, and the host, Gov. Blagojevich (center in photo), as well as the following:
. Aiham Alsammarae
. Christopher Kelly
. Jack Lavin
. Stuart Levine
. Pat Quinn
. Rita Rezko
. Tony Rezko
. Michael Rumman
Herein are named three more prominent individuals: Emil Jones, Jr., President of the Illinois State Senate; Kwame Kilpatrick, former Mayor of Detroit; and L. Brooks Patterson, Chief Executive Officer of Oakland, Michigan. A then newly-discovered photograph with Auchi and Kilpatrick states that Kilpatrick hosted a reception for Auchi, which most likely was held in Detroit. It is unknown whether this group attended both receptions — the one in Michigan and the second one in Chicago.
This photograph of Jones and Auchi points to an interesting tale about Obama and Jones. In a multi-part biographical series about Obama’s remarkable ascendance on the U.S. political scene, the Chicago Tribune reported
- Long before maverick Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald decided not to run for re-election in 2004, Obama approached his mentor, Emil Jones, who was preparing to lead a new Democratic majority in the state Senate.
“You’re a very powerful guy,” Obama told Jones.
“I’ve got the power to do what?” Jones responded.
“You could help elect a U.S. senator,” Obama said.
Jones asked his protege if he had anyone in mind.
“Yeah,” Obama replied. “Me.”
Obama’s ambitions for higher office were an open secret in Springfield, but trying to make the leap to the U.S. Senate seemed a long shot. He was an unknown to most Chicago voters, let alone to those in the rest of the state. His loss to Rush was so lopsided even Obama described it as “a spanking.”
He couldn’t count on the support of some prominent Black Caucus members, including Hendon. In a recent interview, he said Obama was so ambitious that if the position were up for a vote, Obama would run for “king of the world.”
Obama formally announced his campaign in January 2003, more than a year ahead of the primary. Jones, of course, was there. Link, Walsh and Jacobs (see below) also attended, illustrating that his support transcended the black community.
Hendon and Trotter (see below) were a tougher sell. Jones eventually got them to endorse Obama. Hendon said it took “seven or eight” talks with Jones before he finally decided to go along. And, Hendon said, he only did it out of loyalty to Jones.
Obama wasn’t expecting the endorsement of either Trotter or Hendon. He asked Jones how he pulled it off.
“I made them an offer,” Jones recalled telling Obama. “And you don’t want to know.”
The Chicago Tribune wrote that “Link, Walsh and Jacobs” were Obama’s poker-playing pals: “blunt-talking Denny Jacobs from the Quad Cities, and Larry Walsh from Elwood, whose ‘aw-shucks’ demeanor belied deft political skills. … Terry Link of Waukegan, who also was Lake County Democratic chairman.” Additionally, Sen. Rickey Hendon is a “streetwise West Sider nicknamed ‘Hollywood’ who once hoped to be a movie producer” and Sen. Donne Trotter “the Democratic point man on budget issues. In 2000, Trotter and Obama vied to unseat U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, but didn’t come close to toppling the South Side congressman.”
Viewed in the light of his then newly-launched campaign to become the next U.S. Senator from Illinois, and the presence of both his political patron — Rezko — and his political mentor — Jones — the chances that Obama may have dropped in at this particular reception at the request of his friend Tony Rezko increase winningly.
Note: Former mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick has been in and out of jail over the past few years due to corruption charges. His mother, former Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was defeated in 2010, some say because of her son’s corruption scandal.
The Obamas and Auchi attended party at Rezko’s house
Star prosecution witness Stuart Levine testified April 14, 2008, in the Rezko trial that Barack and Michelle Obama attended an April 2004 party held at Rezko’s home held in honor of Nadhmi Auchi, “who was visiting the United States at the time.”
- Levine said very little about the party at Rezko’s home or Obama’s presence there.
He said he had flown Rezko’s family back from Mexico the same day so that they would be in Chicago in time for the party.
“Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was there?” Rezko attorney Joseph J. Duffy asked.
“Yes, Sir,” Levine answered.
“Mr. and Mrs. Obama were there?” Duffy asked.
Levine testified, however, that “the governor was a no-show.”
The party was held April 3, 2004, at Rezko’s Wilmette mansion, Jeff Coen and Bob Secter of the Chicago Tribune added.
To date, both Sen. Obama and Mr. Auchi deny having met, although Obama has said it is possible that he dropped in at the Four Seasons reception dinner hosted by Gov. Blagojevich.
“This is a different reception than one held at the Four Seasons Hotel, where Blagojevich was present,” Natasha Korecki added at the Chicago Sun-Times. The February 28, 2008, Chicago Sun-Times story on the Rezko-Auchi relationship and the hotel reception is here.
Although it became clear there were two separate events held in Chicago on Auchi’s behalf, there was a strong possibility that Levine’s account of the dates may have been off. It seemed odd that Levine would report Blagojevich was absent from the event at Rezko’s mansion but was obviously present, in fact hosted, the event held at the Four Seasons hotel if the two events were, in fact, held the same day. If the dinner reception at the Four Seasons was on April 3, 2004, it is logical to accept that the event at Rezko’s house was held the following day or, perhaps, even a few days later.
Additionally, because we have Obama admitting that he possibly shook hands with Auchi at the Four Seasons hotel, this second encounter — which apparently has likewise eluded his memory — rendered it unlikely that he would so easily forget having met — at one event or the other — one of the world’s richest and very distinguished businessmen.
The chain of events reported in the first article, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”, showed Rezko flying back to Chicago early from his family vacation in Mexico on April 1 to arrange for a reception at the Four Seasons hotel for Auchi. If this reception was held the same day, on April 1, then it would appear that Rezko somehow got word that Auchi was on his way to Chicago and cut his vacation short in order to get back in time to make impromptu arrangements.
Perhaps he received a hurried phone call from someone in the entourage slated to greet Auchi’s private plane when it landed at Midway Airport in Chicago. Rezko’s vacation departure was unscheduled and abrubt and the reception appears also to have been hastily organized.
- “We talked mainly about the late King Hussein of Jordan and Queen Noor,” recalled Quinn, who rode downtown with Auchi and his family. He said he later attended a party for Auchi held at Rezko’s home.
Auchi was the guest of honor at a lavish dinner party thrown by Rezko at the Four Seasons Hotel. Blagojevich was on hand for the festivities and posed for photos with the visiting tycoon.
It was the reception event that Blagojevich hosted. As reported by Levine, the governor did not attend the second event, the party hosted by Rezko at his Wilmette mansion on April 3, 2004.
The AP continued:
- Obama, whose presidential run has been bedeviled by his relationship with Rezko, has said he attended a Rezko party at the Four Seasons but doesn’t remember meeting Auchi. It isn’t clear it was the same party.
“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 me to meet them,” Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times last month. “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.”
If Obama dropped in at the April 1 reception at the Four Seasons, and attended the April 3 party at Rezko’s mansion, that would make two separate encounters at two separate events at which Auchi was the guest of honor. It is doubtful that Auchi was that forgettable.
The timeline on this matter was still a little uncertain (yet was developing).
Witness, two sources confirm Obamas attended gathering at Rezko’s mansion
While under cross-examination April 14, 2008, Joseph Duffy, the defense attorney for Tony Rezko, asked star prosecution witness Stuart Levine whether Sen. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, had attended the April 3, 2004, gathering attended by about 100 guests at Rezko’s Wilmette, Illinois, mansion for Iraqi-British billionaire businessman Nadhmi Auchi.
Natasha Korecki, Chris Fusco and Tim Novak reported April 15, 2008, in the Chicago Sun-Times:
- “Mr. and Mrs. Obama were there, were they not?” Rezko’s lawyer, Joseph Duffy, asked.
“Yes, sir,” Levine said.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told the Sun-Times:
- “As he has said previously, Senator Obama does not recall meeting Nadhmi Auchi at any time or on any occasion, and this includes any event that may have been held for Mr. Auchi. Senator and Mrs. Obama have no recollection of attending any such event.”
LaBolt told the Chicago Tribune a slightly different version:
- “Sen. Obama does not recall meeting Nadhmi Auchi at any time or on any occasion, and this includes any event that may have been held for Mr. Auchi.”
Rick Moran of Pajamas Media reminded us that, during his March 14, 2008, exclusive interview with the editorial board and reporters of the Chicago Sun-Times, “Obama denies helping Auchi in any way with his visa [in 2005] but can’t vouch for his staff (emphasis added):
- Q: Did you ever help Auchi enter the country?
Q: Or your office?
A: “Not that I know of.”
“That would seem to leave an ‘out’ for the lawyerly senator but is inconclusive otherwise,” Moran wrote.
Rich Miller of The Capitol Fax Blog commented April 15, 2008:
- Now we have to go through this Rezko goofiness all over again because Obama’s operation wants to play cute instead of just saying, yeah, he was there, but barely remembers it, or something like that.
It seems like every time the Obama campaign comes close to nailing an issue down, or finally putting Clinton in a corner, it goes off track.
The Sun-Times reported that, according to “two sources familiar with the gathering, the Obamas attended the Wilmette reception, which came less than a month after Obama’s Democratic primary win [on March 16, 2004,] for his U.S. Senate seat. Rezko had been a key fund-raiser for Obama, who has since given to charity nearly $160,000 in Rezko-linked contributions.”
The Associated Press reported that Duffy asked Levine “if he had met Auchi at the party, Levine said ‘Mr. Rezko was walking him through the house and I believe I may have shaken his hand.’”
An April 14, 2008 Associated Press report indicates that Chicago lawyer and real estate businessman Joseph Cacciatore, “whose family once owned” the 62-acre undeveloped property that Rezko was peddling to Mr. Auchi in April 2004, is someone who has confirmed Obama’s presence at the Rezko mansion:
- Still, Cacciatore can’t suppress at least a touch of admiration for the dapper, sophisticated Auchi. He said they met at an Obama fundraising party that Rezko gave at his home several years ago.
“He was well dressed,” Cacciatore said. “He seemed distinguished.”
Note: Cacciatore was one of a number of Rezko-related friends, family and business associates who contributed to Obama’s senatorial campaign on June 30, 2003, funds which Obama allegedly contributed to charity.
The Chicago Tribune reported April 15, 2008, that Gov. Blagojevich said, “I didn’t know Pat Quinn had dinner with Stuart Levine and Tony Rezko at his house” until he learned it from Levine’s April 14, 2008, testimony. This would indicate that Blagojevich was not invited to the April 3 party at Rezko’s house … or, he, like Obama, didn’t recall.
Obama toasted Auchi at Rezko’s house
Michael Sneed asked April 16, 2008, in the Chicago Sun-Times whether Obama had a “Pinocchio problem” or just a “faulty memory?”
- • • To wit: Dem presidential contender Barack Obama’s handlers may be telling the press Obama has NO “recollection” of a 2004 party at influence peddler Tony Rezko’s Wilmette house, but a top Sneed source claims Obama not only gave Rezko’s guest of honor, Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, a big welcome . . . but he made a few toasts!
• • Trial file: The name of Auchi, who was banned from the U.S. in 2005, according to court papers, surfaced at Rezko’s trial Monday. (Top Illinois businessman and Rezko pal Bill Cellini, whose name has also surfaced at the trial, was also at the Rezko party.)
• • The Quinn bin: Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn apparently is the only one with a good memory and admitted being at the Rezko party, attending late, and welcoming Auchi on behalf of the state of Illinois.
What did we hear from outside of the Chicago media? Well, ABC did notice: “Obama Memory Lapse? Rezko Trial Testimony Contradicts Past Obama Statements.”
Tell the truth about Auchi, Sen. Obama — it’s
3+ months 4 years and counting
By July 2008, when I posted this piece, it had been 3+ months and counting since Michael Sneed reported in the Chicago Sun-Times that not only did it come to light that then-Illinois Democratic senatorial nominee Barack Obama attended the April 3, 2004, party hosted by his patron, Tony Rezko, in honor of Nadhmi Auchi, but also that “a top Sneed source claims Obama not only gave Rezko’s guest of honor, Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, a big welcome . . . but he made a few toasts!”
<– To refresh your memory, President Obama, this is Rezko's house . . . You and your wife, Michelle Obama, were reportedly there.
This is Nadhmi Auchi, President Obama . . . It’s long-past time to tell the truth! –>
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? III
For some time, I kept asking about the April 1, 2004 private dinner reception at Chicago’s Four Seasons hotel hosted by Gov. Blagojevich and the April 3 party held at Rezko’s house — both held in honor of Nadhmi Auchi — and whether Barack Obama was in attendance at the events.
In his April 14, 2008, testimony in Rezko’s federal fraud trial, Levine said that both Barack and Michelle Obama were at the party. Levine’s testimony was confirmed the following day by another source, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who had attended the party at Rezko’s house.
On April 16, 2008, Chicago Times reporter Michael Sneed reported that he had a “source” who claimed that not only did Barack Obama give a “big welcome” to Mr. Auchi, Rezko’s guest of honor, but also that Sen. Obama “made a few toasts!”
Next, Chicago Tribune reporter John McCormick wrote that, in an April 25, 2008 interview, Sen. Obama didn’t deny the “assertion” by Levine, the “government’s star witness in the Rezko trial, about the party honoring Nadhmi Auchi, a British citizen who is appealing a fraud conviction in France. Obama said he didn’t recall the event.”
- “I mean this has been, I guess, four years ago,” he said. “My understanding, through his lawyer, Mr. Auchi doesn’t recall meeting me.”
Asked if he thought Rezko may have been using him to impress potential investors, Obama replied: “I just don’t have a recollection of the event. As I said, I was in the middle of running a U.S. Senate race. So, you know, I was speaking all the time, probably six, seven, eight times a day.”
McCormick was as equally mystified as I was:
- Why, just weeks after winning the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in 2004, would Barack Obama attend a party for a controversial Iraqi-born billionaire whom Rezko was trying to lure into an investment?
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? IV
Rick Pearson and John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune‘s The Swamp blog (h/t RV) obliterated another aspect of Barack Obama’s fairy tale about the April 1, 2004, private dinner reception at Chicago’s Four Seasons hotel hosted by Gov. Blagojevich and the April 3 party held at Rezko’s house in honor of Nadhmi Auchi.
In his April 25, 2008, interview with McCormick, Obama said
- “I just don’t have a recollection of the event,… As I said, I was in the middle of running a U.S. Senate race. So, you know, I was speaking all the time, probably six, seven, eight times a day.”
It was clear that Pearson and McCormick had done their homework and reported the following April 28, 2008:
- Obama may not recall Rezko’s party for Auchi, but he was not in the “middle” of a U.S. Senate race or speaking all the time. The Saturday party was held less than three weeks after Obama had won the March 16 Democratic primary nomination and, as is tradition, the candidates slow their immediate post-primary campaign schedules considerably before reheating the fall general election contest in late summer.
Indeed, an archived copy of an Obama “upcoming events” schedule on his old Senate campaign web site shows that on a Saturday two weeks later, he had no personal campaign activities. On Friday, April 13, the web site shows Obama touring Illinois coal-country at four morning events with the state’s senior senator, Dick Durbin.
On March 31, 2004, and Thursday, April 1, 2004, just a few days before Rezko’s April 3 party for Auchi, Obama wasn’t engaged in full day campaigning. Instead, he was on the floor of the Illinois Senate, where he advanced a measure to override a federal proposal to restrict overtime pay. On Friday, April 2, the day before the party, Obama taped a Chicago news radio interview program. And on Saturday, along with the Rezko party, Obama was among the glitterati who attended a Ritz-Carlton wedding reception.
On Sunday, April 4, Obama was on the South Side of Chicago, listening to a Palm Sunday homily at St. Sabina Catholic Church delivered by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Also in attendance in the overflow crowd were Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, as the day also marked the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
St. Sabina’s is home to Obama religious advisor and America-hating racist cleric, Father Michael Pfleger.
Another addition to Obama’s schedule was an April 5 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times‘s Cathleen Falsani about Obama’s hateful, hatefilled pastors — including Father Pfleger.
Additionally, as I had reported earlier elsewhere, on April 9, 2004, Sen. Obama accompanied Sen. John F. Kerry “to tour and talk jobs and the economy at Greater West Town Training Partnership” in Chicago.
Can you say “gotcha”?
Still, the one big question remains unanswered. McCormick had asked it on April 25, 2008:
- Why, just weeks after winning the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in 2004, would Barack Obama attend a party for a controversial Iraqi-born billionaire whom Rezko was trying to lure into an investment?
Hopefully, McCormick and Pearson and others will keep digging — while President Obama keeps digging a deep hole of his own.
Finally, I must add an unsubstantiated secondhand report that Barack Obama, Rezko, and Nadhmi Auchi shared a conversation in Rezko’s “cigar room,” if that’s the appropriate name. Perhaps someone who got a whiff of that chat has some details to share. Hmmm?