10 Jul

Key Bush aides’ e-mail may be lost, April 2007, REMEMBER?

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The George W. Bush email scandal the media has conveniently forgotten

Key Bush aides’ e-mail may be lost, April 2007

The McGlynn: From the Past. REMEMBER?

The messages, on a private system, are wanted by Congress in a probe of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

April 12, 2007|Tom Hamburger | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House said Wednesday that it may have lost what could amount to thousands of messages sent through a private e-mail system used by political guru Karl Rove and at least 50 other top officials, an admission that stirred anger and dismay among congressional investigators.

The e-mails were considered potentially crucial evidence in congressional inquiries launched by Democrats into the role partisan politics may have played in such policy decisions as the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

The White House said an effort was underway to see whether the messages could be recovered from the computer system, which was operated and paid for by the Republican National Committee as part of an avowed effort to separate political communications from those dealing with official business.

“The White House has not done a good enough job overseeing staff using political e-mail accounts to assure compliance with the Presidential Records Act,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said in an unusual late-afternoon teleconference with reporters.

As a result, Stanzel said, “we may not have preserved all e-mails that deal with White House business.”

He refused to estimate how many e-mails may have been lost, but the system was used by dozens of officials for more than six years.

“This is a remarkable admission that raises serious legal and security issues,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is investigating the role of electoral politics in administration policymaking. “The White House has an obligation to disclose all the information it has.”

The missing e-mails not only add to the growing legal and public relations woes for the White House and Rove’s political operation, but also to the problems of Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. Gonzales, who is under fire for the handling of the U.S. attorney dismissals, was serving as White House counsel at the time the Republican National Committee’s parallel communications system was set up.

His office had at least partial responsibility for establishing ground rules for using the private system.

The White House briefing Wednesday occurred a few hours after the staff of Waxman’s committee and staff of the House Judiciary Committee met with White House officials to discuss the e-mails.

The White House has informed congressional investigators that it will not be able to meet the committee’s deadline of Friday to turn over the communications.

The House aides are expected to meet with the Republican National Committee’s legal staff today. A committee spokesman said the GOP hopes to cooperate as much as possible but provided no further details.

The e-mails were sent through a communications system created in conjunction with the RNC early in the Bush administration. Rove and others were given special laptop computers and other communications devices to use instead of the government communications system when dealing with political matters.

The parallel system was designed to avoid running afoul of the Hatch Act, which prohibits using government resources for partisan purposes, White House officials have said.

But evidence has emerged that system users sometimes failed to maintain such separation and used the private system when communicating about government business.


The George W. Bush email scandal the media has conveniently forgotten

Back in 2007, the White House “lost” more than five million private emails. The story was barely covered

The George W. Bush email scandal the media has conveniently forgotten

(Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

This article originally appeared on Media Matters.

Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush’s sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many as five million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.

The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.

As the Washington Post reported, “Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations.” But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.

The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday’s Meet The PressFace The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC’s This Week.)

And from CNN, April 2007

White House: Millions of e-mails may be missing

NEW: White House spokeswoman says 5 million official e-mails may be missing
• White House admits it should have kept e-mails on private GOP system
• Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee doubts e-mails are deleted
• Committee investigating whether U.S. attorneys’ firings were politically motivated

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Millions of White House e-mails may be missing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged Friday.

“I wouldn’t rule out that there were a potential 5 million e-mails lost,” Perino told reporters.

The administration was already facing sharp questions about whether top presidential advisers including Karl Rove improperly used Republican National Committee e-mail that the White House said later disappeared.

The latest comments were a response to a new report from a liberal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), alleging that over a two-year period official White House e-mail traffic for hundreds of days has vanished — in possible violation of the federal Presidential Records Act. (Watch CREW’s comments on the missing messagesVideo)

“This story is really now a two-part issue,” CREW’s Melanie Sloan told CNN. “First there’s the use of the RNC e-mail server that’s inappropriate by White House officials and secondly we’ve also learned that there were between March of 2003 and October of 2005 apparently over 5 million e-mail that were not preserved and these are e-mail on the regular White House server.”

Perino stressed there’s no indication the e-mails were intentionally lost, but she was careful not to dispute the outside group’s allegations. “I’m not taking issue with their conclusions at this point,” Perino said. “We’re checking into them. There are 1,700 people in the Executive Office of the President…………………. Perino said 22 aides in the political arm of the president’s office use party or campaign e-mail accounts, which were issued to separate official business from political work. Some of those accounts were used to discuss the December firings of eight federal prosecutors, a shake-up that has triggered a spreading controversy on Capitol Hill.

Congressional investigators have questioned whether White House aides used e-mail accounts from the Republican Party and President Bush’s re-election campaign for official government business to avoid scrutiny of those dealings.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the White House of trying to hide messages on the Republican Party system related to the firing of the U.S. attorneys, which has stirred up a hornet’s nest on Capitol Hill.

“You can’t erase e-mails, not today,” said Leahy, D-Vermont. “They’ve gone through too many servers. They can’t say they’ve been lost. That’s like saying, ‘The dog ate my homework.’ “……………….

E-mails sought by special prosecutor are also missing

Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, disclosed last year that some White House e-mails in 2003 were not saved as standard procedure dictated.

In a January 23, 2006, letter to the defense team of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Fitzgerald wrote: “We advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.”

Robert Luskin, personal attorney for Rove, told CNN Friday that he “has no reason to doubt” Fitzgerald’s assertion that some White House e-mail was missing.

“You’re quite right,” Luskin said in a telephone interview. “There was a gap there.”

Democrats charge this raises questions about whether the public has gotten the full story on everything from the CIA leak case to the fired U.S. attorneys controversy.

“The biggest problem here is really that here is a White House that is deliberately violating an existing statute that requires them to preserve all records,” said Sloan. “And we have significant evidence now both from the RNC e-mail and the White House e-mail that are missing that the White House was using every means possible to avoid complying with the law.”

Luskin said it was “foolish speculation” for CREW — which serves as counsel to former ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, in a private suit against Rove and other Bush officials — to suggest that the gap in White House e-mail helped Rove avoid indictment in the CIA leak case. Luskin said Fitzgerald told him that Rove was cleared in the case because he “did nothing wrong.”

Luskin added that until this month, Rove believed his RNC e-mail was being archived and did nothing wrong.

“Rove has always understood from very early on in the Bush administration that RNC and campaign e-mail were being archived,” said Luskin. “He was absolutely unaware until very, very recently that any e-mails were lost. And he never asked that e-mails be deleted or asked for the authority to delete e-mails.”

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