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On First Day of Trial, Obama Grilled About Rezko

(CBS)
From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -- Barack Obama answered a number of questions from reporters today, only one of which actually dealt with the Tuesday contests.

Unresolved questions about Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko and a question about a campaign adviser's meeting with the Canadian consulate were the focus of Obama's press conference here.

Local Chicago reporters grilled Obama on his relationship with Rezko, whose trial begins in Chicago today, and suggested that he was not transparent about their business dealings when the story first broke. Obama disputed this notion, arguing that he held a press conference in Chicago to discuss the issue. He called Rezko a friend and a supporter, but argued that charges against Rezko are unrelated to him.

"What is 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 explained.

"And I've been very open that I called it a boneheaded move. On the other hand there have been no allegations that I did anything wrong, there have been no allegations that I betrayed the public trust."

Obama was also questioned on whether one of his economic advisers, Austan Goolsbee, met privately with the Canadian consulate in Chicago and assured them that if Obama were president, he would not withdraw from NAFTA. Although Obama and his campaign have repeatedly said that a formal meeting never occurred, he admitted to a casual meeting between Goolsbee and the consulate.

"First of all when I gave you that information, that was the information that I had at the time," Obama said referring to his denial of the story just days before.

"It turned out that the Canadian consulate in Chicago contacted one of my advisers, Austen Goldsbee, on their own initiative, invited him down to meet with them. He went down there as a courtesy and at some point they started talking about trade and NAFTA."

Obama reiterated his support of NAFTA but said that that he would modify portions of the agreement. He said that Goldsbee explained this position to the Canadian consulate and made no promises. Obama accused Clinton of using the story for political means.

"I know that the Clinton campaign has been true to its word in employing a kitchen sink strategy, we've seen what three, four things a day - this is one for them, it doesn't, I think, change the facts."