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The Bush White House e-mail controversy surfaced in 2007, during the controversy involving the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. Congressional requests for administration documents while investigating the dismissals of the U.S. attorneys required the Bush administration to reveal that not all internal White Housemarker emails were available, because they were sent via a non-government domain hosted on an e-mail server not controlled by the federal government. Conducting governmental business in this manner is a possible violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, and the Hatch Act. Over 5 million e-mails may have been lost or deleted. Greg Palast claims to have come up with 500 of the Karl Rove lost emails, leading to damaging allegations.

gwb43.com

The administration officials had been using a private Internet domain, called gwb43.com, owned by and hosted on an e-mail server run by the Republican National Committee, for various communications of unknown content or purpose. The domain name is an acronym standing for "George W. Bush, 43rd" President of the United States. The server came public when it was discovered that J. Scott Jennings, the White House's deputy director of political affairs, was using a gwb43.com e-mail address to discuss the firing of the U.S. attorney for Arkansas. Communications by federal employees were also found on georgewbush.com (registered to "Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.") and rnchq.org (registered to "Republican National Committee"), but, unlike these two servers, gwb43.com has no Web server connected to it — it is used only for e-mail.

The "gwb43.com" domain name was publicized by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who sent a letter to Oversight and Government Reform Committee committee chairman Henry A. Waxman requesting an investigation. Waxman sent a formal warning to the RNC, advising them to retain copies of all e-mails sent by White House employees. According to Waxman, "in some instances, White House officials were using nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications." The Republican National Committee claims to have erased the emails, supposedly making them unavailable for Congressional investigators.

On April 12, 2007, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel stated that White House staffers were told to use RNC accounts to "err on the side of avoiding violations of the Hatch Act, but they should also retain that information so it can be reviewed for the Presidential Records Act," and that "some employees ... have communicated about official business on those political email accounts." Stanzel also said that even though RNC policy since 2004 has been to retain all emails of White House staff with RNC accounts, the staffers had the ability to delete the email themselves.

Dead Letter Office

Some of the "missing" emails that were sent through the RNC accounts were mistakenly addressed to georgewbush.org, a parody site. Text of the misaddressed emails is available at the Dead Letter Office.

Use by senior White House staff

According to a former White House official, Karl Rove used RNC-hosted addresses for roughly "95 percent" of his e-mail. Rove provided email from his kr@georgewbush.com address in exhibits to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary.

White House deputy Jennifer Farley told Jack Abramoff not to use the official White House system "because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc." Abramoff responded, "Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her RNC pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system."

Investigations with missing e-mails

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

The House Oversight committee in an interim staff report, released on June 18, 2007:
* At least eighty-eight Republican National Committee e-mail accounts were granted to senior Bush administration officials, not "just a handful" as previously reported by the White House spokesperson Dana Perino in March of 2007. Her estimate was later revised to "about fifty." Officials with accounts included: 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.


* The RNC has 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 users of RNC e-mail accounts include former 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.


* Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials.


* 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.


*The evidence obtained by the Committee indicates that White House officials used their RNC e-mail accounts in a manner that circumvented these requirements. At this point in the investigation, it is not possible to determine precisely how many presidential records may have been destroyed by the RNC. Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.


Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

During the investigation into the exceptional firing of eight U.S. attorneys, it became known White Housemarker staff was using Republican National Committee (RNC) e-mail accounts. The White House stated it might have lost five million e-mails.

On May 2, 2007, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Department of Justicemarker (DOJ) compelling the production of email Karl Rove sent to DOJ staff, regarding evaluation and dismissal of attorneys, no matter what email account Rove used, whether White House or National Republican party accounts, or other accounts, with a deadline of May 15, 2007 for compliance. The subpoena also demanded relevant email previously produced in the Valarie Plame controversy and investigation for the CIA leak scandal .

CIA leak grand jury investigation

Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson alleged that his wife's identity was covert and that members of the George W. Bush administration knowingly revealed that information as retribution for his New York Times op-ed entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," of July 6, 2003, in which he debunked the claim Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, while investigating the leak, found that e-mails were missing from the White House server. Mother Jones wrote that this is possibly the reason the RNC changed the policy of deleting e-mails after 30 days to saving all e-mail sent and received by White House officials. In light of the apparent vanished e-mails Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked to reopen the investigation.

General Services Administration

It is feared that the missing e-mails might also have an impact on congressional investigation of General Services Administration.

Department of Education

While investigating the Reading First program CREW learned that employees use private e-mails to conduct official business. This might be a violation of the Federal Records Act.

Legalities

The Hatch Act

The Hatch Act prohibits the use of government resources, including e-mail accounts, for political purposes. The Bush administration stated the RNC accounts were used to prevent violation of this Act.

Presidential Records Act

The Presidential Records Act mandates the preservation of all presidential records. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Wall Street Journal contend that the missing e-mails may constitute a violation of this Act.

See also



References

  1. Rove and Co. Broke Federal Law With Email Scam by Jonathan Stein, Mother Jones, April 12, 2007
  2. CREW Releases New Report - Without A Trace: The Missing White House Emails and The Violations of The Presidential Records Act[1] Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, April 13, 2006
  3. Officials' e-mails may be missing, White House says Democrats in Congress want messages from private system for probe of U.S. attorney firings By Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2007
  4. The Guardian. White House Says It Still Backs Gonzales. 25 March 2007.
  5. Washington Post. GOP Groups Told to Keep Bush Officials' E-Mails. 27 March 2007
  6. http://www.gwb43.com/
  7. CREW asks for House Investigation into White House violations of Presidential Records Act.. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), 15 March 2007.
  8. The Hill. Waxman wants RNC, Bush campaign to preserve e-mails. 26 March 2007
  9. News from CNN
  10. White House - April 12, 2007 Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel [2]
  11. [2004.georgewbush.org]georgewbush.org
  12. [3]the Dead Letter Office
  13. Froomkin, Dan. The Rovian Theory washingtonpost.com 2007-03-23
  14. and and
  15. Financial Times. Aides to Bush told not to destroy e-mails. 26 March 2007
  16. Dismissal attorneys uncommon * Republicans and U.S. attorneys -- then and now by Glenn Greenwald, Salon, March 19, 2007 * Inserting Politics Into Justice By E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, March 24, 2007 * Media repeat claim that Clinton's dismissal of George H.W. Bush U.S. attorneys was comparable to Bush's dismissal of own U.S. attorneys Media Matters, March 14, 2007
  17. Advisers' E-Mail Accounts May Have Mixed Politics and Business, White House Says By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, New York Times, April 12, 2007
  18. Missing Rove Emails Point to Violation of Records Act By Jason Leopold and Matt Renner, Truthout, May 21, 2007
  19. Lahey, Patrick Rove Email Subpeona United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary (via Findlaw) May 2, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2007.
  20. Fitzgerald * Media largely ignored Fitzgerald revelation that White House may have destroyed emails * White House Fails To Archive E-Mail; Issue in CIA Leak Case By JOSH GERSTEIN, The New York Sun, February 2, 2006
  21. Mother Jones: RE: Those Missing White House Emails. April 13, 2007
  22. CREW Writes Patrick Fitzgerald Asking to Re-Open Rove Case in Light of Missing Emails Yahoo, April 13, 2007
  23. Immunity for Ex-Gonzales Aide Weighed Potential Witness's Role in Firings CitedBy Paul Kane, The Washington Post, April 18, 2007; Page A08
  24. CREW learns Dept. of Education staff are using private e-mails in violation of federal law CREW, May 16, 2007
  25. Ethics watchdog accuses Education Department of illegal e-mail use by Nick Juliano, Raw Story, May 16, 2007
  26. LEGAL WORRIES OVER MISSING EMAILS GROW by John D. McKinnon, Wall Street Journal


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