A lawyer for the Republican National Committee told congressional staff
members yesterday that the RNC is missing at least four years' worth of
e-mail from White House senior adviser Karl Rove that is being sought as
part of investigations into the Bush administration, according to the
chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The briefing received by the Committee raises serious concerns about the
White House compliance with the Presidential Records Act, which requires
that the President =93take all such steps as may be necessary to assure
that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect
the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or
ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are
maintained as Presidential records.=94
The White House said Thursday that missing e-mail messages sent on
Republican Party accounts may include some relating to the firing of
eight United States attorneys.
April 12, 2007
Fred Fielding, Esq.
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. Fielding:
We are troubled to learn through the press that the White House cannot
account for the e-mails of almost two dozen people at the White House,
including some the Senate Judiciary has asked to question in connection
with our ongoing investigation. Apparently these officials utilized
e-mail accounts, addresses and equipment provided by the Republican
National Committee and political campaigns to communicate about the plan
to replace a number of United States Attorneys. As you know, by letter
dated March 28, 2007, the Chairmen of both the House and Senate
Judiciary Committees wrote to you asking that you collect and produce
e-mails and documents sent from all e-mail accounts, addresses and
domains relevant to these investigations, and made specific reference to
the use of such political e-mail addresses.
The comments of two White House officials, which were cited in today=92s
edition of the Washington Post, raise questions about whether the White
House will be able to comply with the March 28 letter. White House
spokesman Scott Stanzel reportedly stated, =93[t]he White House has not at
this point done a good enough job at overseeing the practices of staff
with political e-mail accounts," and confirmed that "[s]ome officials'
e-mails have potentially been lost and that is a mistake that the White
House is aggressively working to fix." The second official who was
cited, a White House lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity, told
the press at a briefing that White House staff is now being advised that
if they question whether an e-mail is political or official, the staff
should use their private accounts, but also preserve a copy to be sent
to White House lawyers for a determination of whether the e-mail needs
to be saved under the Presidential Records Act.
In light of these comments by White House officials, we would like to
know what is being done to investigate and remedy this situation. For
example, we would like to know if the process described above by the
anonymous White House lawyer is intended to apply prospectively only or
if staff is also being advised that they should forward past e-mails
from their private accounts to White House lawyers for review.
Additionally, in reference to the statement that the White House =93has
not . . . done a good enough job at overseeing practices=94 regarding
e-mail accounts, we would like to know what was done in the past and
whether any private e-mail retention policies were in place. We would
also like to know how and when the White House first learned of the
problem with private e-mail account usage and when it first came to
light that e-mails may have been lost.
We recognize that the White House must and should investigate this
matter in a timely fashion. We also recognize that the congressional
committees of jurisdiction have a separate obligation to investigate.
To accommodate our separate obligations without slowing down or
otherwise complicating the others=92 efforts, we suggest that the White
House consult with us and the other congressional committees engaged in
affected investigations and that we jointly agree upon a fair and
objective process for investigating this matter, including the use of a
mutually trusted computer forensic expert. Such a process would help to
restore public confidence in the White House=92s desire to comply with the
Presidential Records Act. Moreover, it would ensure your office and the
Congress that this matter is being taken seriously and that an objective
process is employed to investigate, retrieve and reconstruct the
information that is reportedly missing due to deleted or otherwise
PATRICK LEAHY ARLEN
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