The Tempest Online™

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Bush To Congress: “Why don’t you try finding the emails on The Google?”

Posted by Daniel on April 13, 2007

Liar, liar…President Bush’s aides are lying about White House e-mails sent on a Republican account that might have been lost, a powerful Senate chairman said Thursday, vowing to subpoena those documents if the administration fails to cough them up.

“They say they have not been preserved. I don’t believe that!” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy shouted from the Senate floor.

“You can’t erase e-mails, not today. They’ve gone through too many servers,” said Leahy, D-Vermont “Those e-mails are there, they just don’t want to produce them. We’ll subpoena them if necessary.”

With that, Leahy headed to his committee, which approved — but did not issue — new subpoenas to compel the administration to produce documents and testimony about the firings of eight federal prosecutors over the winter.

Democrats say the firings might have been improper, but that probe yielded a bigger question: Whether White House officials such as political adviser Karl Rove are purposely conducting sensitive official presidential business via non-governmental accounts to evade a law requiring preservation — and eventual disclosure — of presidential records.

Lost

The White House issued an emphatic “No” to those questions during a conference call with reporters Wednesday, saying the Republican National Committee accounts were used to comply with the Hatch Act, which bars political work using official resources or on government time.

But White House spokesman Scott Stanzel acknowledged that 22 White House aides have e-mail accounts sponsored by the RNC and that thousands of e-mails may have been lost.

Stanzel said the White House was trying to recover the e-mails. The administration also is drafting new guidelines for aides on how to comply with the law.

Leahy is not buying that.

“E-mails don’t get lost,” Leahy insisted. “These are just e-mails they don’t want to bring forward.”

The revelation about the e-mails escalates a standoff between the Democrat-controlled Congress and the White House over the firing of the prosecutors. The subpoenas come a few days before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is to appear before Leahy’s committee Tuesday to fight for his job.

Leahy’s panel approved new subpoenas that would compel the Bush administration to surrender hundreds of new documents and force two officials — Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella and White House political aide Scott Jennings — to reveal their roles in the firings. The panel delayed for a week a vote on whether to authorize a subpoena for Rove’s deputy, Sara Taylor.

Leahy has not issued any subpoenas, but permission by his committee today would give him authority to require testimony from all eight of the fired U.S. attorneys and several White House and Justice Department officials named in e-mails made public as having had roles in the firings.

Late today, White House officials admitted they made a mistake.

The White House “screwed up” by not requiring e-mails from Republican Party and campaign accounts to be saved and is trying to recover any documents that may have been deleted, a spokeswoman said.

The admission came after the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee accused the White House of trying to hide messages related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, which has stirred up a hornet’s nest on Capitol Hill.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters that the e-mails from those accounts should have been saved, but said policy has not kept pace with technology. She said computer experts were trying to retrieve any records that have been deleted.

“We screwed up, and we’re trying to fix it,” she told reporters.

Perino said Thursday that 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 federal prosecutors in eight cities, a shakeup that has triggered a spreading controversy on Capitol Hill.

Perino said the accounts represent “a small slice of people” in the White House, where about 1,000 people have political duties. But she said, “We don’t have an idea on the universe of the number of e-mails that were lost.”

“I don’t know if Sen. Leahy is also an [information technology] expert, but I can assure you that we are working very hard to make sure that we find the e-mails that were potentially lost and that we are responsive to the requests, if there are responses that need providing, on the U.S. attorneys matters,” she said. “We’re being very honest and forthcoming.”

Leahy said the e-mails would have remained on party or campaign computer servers, and he compared the situation to the famous 18½-minute gap in one of the Watergate tapes.

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