Obama's opening statement:

So what I want to do, if this is OK with you guys, I want to start just by talking about my house purchase and Tony Rezko because that's something that I know you guys have editorialized on, suggesting that we haven't provided you guys enough information. I would love to have an exhaustive conversation about all aspects of it and ensure that by the time we leave here today, you may not be happy with all my answers—but at least you can't say that I have not answered the questions. Is that fair?

Tribune: Sounds good.

Obama: And in preparation for this meeting, what I instructed my attorney to do and my staff to do, and Michelle [Obama's wife] and I also did, was just to go through everything pertaining to it.

We've prepared a document . . . Flynn [McRoberts, Tribune deputy projects editor] has it. There ya go. So we've got a—it's got all the documents related to our side of the transaction. And, as well as an e-mail from the sellers confirming some key points that I'll be making during the course of my initial presentation and that we can follow up any of those issues later.

So here's what I'd like to do is start off by just laying out the context of my relationship with Tony Rezko so that people understand how the house purchase came about and how the lot purchase came about. I first met—and by the way, one last point I want to make on this: Many of these things are points that have been raised in previous stories and have been asked and we felt had been answered, but I want to just reiterate it once again and then we can fill out anything else.

I first met Tony Rezko when I was still at law school, or at least I had just graduated from law school. He had two partners, a guy named Dan Mahru and David Brint. They had started a real estate company called Rezmar. They contacted me while I was the president of the Harvard Law Review and asked if I was coming back to Chicago and was thinking about future employment, would I be interested in potentially getting involved in development.

And so when I was back in Chicago, and I don't recall whether it was during the summer between, you know, my second and third year [in law school], or whether it was after I had graduated, or whether it was just visiting Michelle, I met with them.

They were, didn't talk to me about a specific job but explained what they were doing in terms of development. Because I had been a community organizer, I think that's what part of what prompted their interest because they were doing a lot of affordable housing work and work with community development corporations.

I had a relatively brief conversation, maybe 45 minutes, and ultimately declined to go into development, but that was the first time I met Tony Rezko.

Fast-forward a little bit, I did not have a lot of interactions with Tony at that point. I was working as an associate at a law firm. There may have been interactions with my law firm and some of the development partners of Rezmar because they would often partner with not-for-profits and we had a small transactional practice in the law firm that specialized in representing not-for-profits—you know, church-based organizations that were doing community development.

I don't recall exactly how many times at that point I had met Tony Rezko, but I don't think at that point I would have considered him a friend. He was an acquaintance.

When I decided to run for the state Senate, the way that I decided to run for the state Senate was I had been helping Alice Palmer, who was then running for Congress. She had asked me to help. She was giving up her seat, and I was, um, I got involved in her campaign, and some people asked me if I'd be interested potentially in taking her seat.

Tony Rezko, I think, had provided some assistance to her at that time, so I think that may be the first time where we started talking about politics. He agreed to support my Senate campaign. He was an active developer in, on the South Side, and he'd, so he had some relationships with some of the aldermen in the area that I did not have relationships with and he introduced me to them. It's hard to imagine, given the kind of fundraising I'm doing now, but the total amount that I raised for that first race was $100,000.

And I think it's fair to say, and this is an estimate, that Tony Rezko probably raised $10,000 to $15,000 of that. I don't, I can't say precisely because I no longer have those records.

But I think that's probably a rough guesstimate. As a consequence of that support, we became friendlier, and I probably had, I would probably talk to him maybe five to six months a year. We might have breakfast or we might have lunch.

At that time I knew him as a businessman who also had an interest in politics, but did not know the details of his various business interactions.

When I ran for Congress, I asked him if he'd be interested in supporting me, as I asked a number of people all across the city who I thought might be interested in the race. It was a difficult decision for him because he had a relationship with Bobby Rush. But he nevertheless agreed to support me over Bobby Rush.

And I would say in my congressional race, I raised about $600,000 total. I can't say exactly how much he raised but I'd say, you know, he was on my finance committee along with a number of other people. My guess is he might have raised $50,000 to $75,000. That would be my guess. And, obviously, I appreciated his support. I lost that race as all of you have recorded, uh, amply.