House Committee Investigates Extensive Violations of Presidential Records Act

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has “has been investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act by using e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee and the Bush Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications.” They issued the following summary of their findings:

  • The number of White House officials given RNC e-mail accounts is higher than previously disclosed. In March 2007, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said that only a “handful of officials” had RNC e-mail accounts. In later statements, her estimate rose to “50 over the course of the administration.” In fact, the Committee has learned from the RNC that at least 88 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts. The officials with RNC e-mail accounts include Karl Rove, the President’s senior advisor; Andrew Card, the former White House Chief of Staff; Ken Mehlman, the former White House Director of Political Affairs; and many other officials in the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Communications, and the Office of the Vice President.
  • White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts. The RNC has preserved 140,216 e-mails sent or received by Karl Rove. Over half of these e-mails (75,374) were sent to or received from individuals using official “.gov” e-mail accounts. Other heavy users of RNC e-mail accounts include former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor (66,018 e-mails) and Deputy Director of Political Affairs Scott Jennings (35,198 e-mails). These e-mail accounts were used by White House officials for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.
  • There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials. In a deposition, Susan Ralston, Mr. Rove’s former executive assistant, testified that many of the White House officials for whom the RNC has no e-mail records were regular users of their RNC e-mail accounts. Although the RNC has preserved no e-mail records for Ken Mehlman, the former Director of Political Affairs, Ms. Ralston testified that Mr. Mehlman used his account “frequently, daily.” In addition, there are major gaps in the e-mail records of the 37 White House officials for whom the RNC did preserve e-mails. The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Mr. Rove during President Bush’s first term and no e-mails sent by Mr. Rove prior to November 2003. For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006.
  • There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records. In her deposition, Ms. Ralston testified that she searched Mr. Rove’s RNC e-mail account in response to an Enron-related investigation in 2001 and the investigation of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald later in the Administration. According to Ms. Ralston, the White House Counsel’s office knew about these e-mails because “all of the documents we collected were then turned over to the White House Counsel’s office.” There is no evidence, however, that White House Counsel Gonzales initiated any action to ensure the preservation of the e-mail records that were destroyed by the RNC.

It all feels like a high tech repeat of Rose Mary Woods and the 18 1/2 minute gap on the Watergate tapes.

They conclude that “the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.” The committee report discusses further which might be taken in this matter:

First, the records of federal agencies should be examined to assess whether they may contain some of the White House e-mails that have been destroyed by the RNC. The Committee has already written to 25 federal agencies to inquire about the e-mail records they may have retained from White House officials who used RNC and Bush Cheney ’04 e-mail accounts. Preliminary responses from the agencies indicate that they may have preserved official communications that were destroyed by the RNC.

Second, the Committee should investigate what former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales knew about the use of political e-mail accounts by White House officials. If Susan Ralston’s testimony to the Committee is accurate, there is evidence that Mr. Gonzales or counsels working in his office knew in 2001 that Karl Rove was using his RNC e-mail account to communicate about official business, but took no action to preserve Mr. Rove’s official communications.

Third, the Committee may need to issue compulsory process to obtain the cooperation of the Bush Cheney ’04 campaign. The campaign has informed the Committee that it provided e-mail accounts to 11 White House officials, but the campaign has unjustifiably refused to provide the Committee with basic information about these accounts, such as the identity of the White House officials and the number of e-mails that have been preserved.

We’re Back (And Thanks For All The Links, Even if Readers Couldn’t Get Thru)

After spending the day with frequent outages we finally appear to be back up and running–with the web host promising an improvement in reliability and service after the changes made today. We’ll see…

Thanks to all those who tried to link here today, and sorry your readers may have had trouble getting through.

For today’s links (plus a couple from yesterday), thanks to Salon’s Blog Report, The Mahablog, The Moderate Voice, Memeorandum, Real Clear Politics, Patrick Ruffini, Kevin Sullivan, Down with Tyranny!, Militant Moderates, Viralroots, The Carpetbagger Report, and anyone else I might have missed.

More Rumors of Bloomberg On a Third Party Ticket

Maybe it’s a sign that people are not satisfied with the choices being offered by the major parties, but talk of third party candidates continues to attract attention. Following Michael Bloomberg’s appearance on the cover of Time, Robert Novak reports on new rumors of third party plans:

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered the University of Oklahoma commencement address May 11, he engaged in a long, private discussion about 2008 politics with university president and maverick Democrat David Boren.

According to New York political sources, they discussed a role Boren might play in an independent Bloomberg campaign for president — generating speculation about a Bloomberg-Boren ticket. In introducing Bloomberg for his commencement speech, Boren praised the mayor’s record stabilizing his city’s budget and strengthening its economy after the 9/11 attack.

Boren was governor of Oklahoma before serving 16 years in the U.S. Senate. A moderate Democrat, he clashed with President Bill Clinton and left the Senate in 1994 to take the University of Oklahoma post. He declined Ross Perot’s offer of the Reform Party vice presidential nomination in 1996 but said he might be open to a 2000 draft.

I wonder what Chuck Hagel thinks of this new speculation on a different running mate.

Can Richardson Benefit From Sin City?

While the media concentrates on the national polls, the candidates know that a strong showing in the early primaries and caucuses is what really counts. It has often been noted how John Edwards is concentrating on Iowa, hoping to repeat John Kerry’s strategy. Less well noticed is Bill Richardson’s concentration on Nevada as the major candidates are paying less attention to the state.

Richardson is obviously a long shot, but a victory in an early state such as Nevada could propel him into the top tier. He has broken the ten percent barrier in both Iowa and New Hampshire, putting him in a position to win one and do respectably in the other two early contests. Unfortunately candidates such as Richardson may have a harder time than in earlier years due to the calendar which doesn’t leave much time for candidates to take advantage of an early win before most of the delegates are chosen.

Richardson will also have a book out on energy and the environment this fall which might give him a bounce going into the primaries and caucuses. He will need to improve his skills on television, after disappointing appearances on Meet the Press and in the last debate.

Maybe concentrating on Nevada could help in another way. Richardson has attracted the attention of libertarians, and so far this year there are no candidates who have been particularly appealing to us “small-l libertarians” who seek a candidate who is socially liberal but more econmically conservative. Perhaps Richardson could use campaigning in Nevada to highlight a socially liberal platform. There is always the risk that this could backfire as there is a narrow line between being seen as socially liberal and being too closely identified with “Sin City,” but at this point Richardson needs to gamble a bit. That might be fitting advice for someone who is already concentrating on Nevada.