Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy/e-mail controversy

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The following relates to the Bush administration U.S. attorney firings and the emerging controversy involving gwb43.com—and other—e-mails routed from the White House through the Republican National Committee's internet servers operated by the SMARTech Corporation.


The "larger picture"

"But the 'missing emails' story is way more than, or at least overlaps with, quite a number of Other Republican Scandals. Looting at Interior Dept. and anywhere else Jack Abramoff left his slithering slime track, from Indian reservations to the Marianas Island to boat marinas in Florida. The US Attorney firing scandal which is the one getting the most attention now. Hell, anything Rove, Cheney and their various lapdogs have screwed up in the last 6+ years is connected to these missing emails," Xan wrote April 14, 2007, at Corrente Wire.

The "treasure-trove" of e-mails

"The discovery of a hitherto unknown treasure-trove of e-mails buried by the Bush White House may prove to be as informative as Nixon's secret White House tapes," Sidney Blumenthal wrote March 29, 2007, in Salon. "Last week the National Journal disclosed [1] that Karl Rove does 'about 95 percent' of his e-mails outside the White House system, instead using a Republican National Committee account. What's more, Rove doesn't tap most of his messages on a White House computer, but rather on a BlackBerry provided by the RNC. By this method, Rove and other White House aides evade the legally required archiving of official e-mails. The first glimmer of this dodge appeared in a small item buried in a January 2004 [actually, it was the October 10, 2004] issue of U.S. News & World Report: 'I don't want my E-mail made public,' said one insider. As a result, many aides have shifted to Internet E-mail instead of the White House system. 'It's Yahoo!, baby,' says a Bushie."

"The offshoring of White House records via RNC e-mails became apparent when an RNC domain, gwb43.com (referring to George W. Bush, 43rd president), turned up in a batch of e-mails the White House gave to House and Senate committees earlier this month," Blumenthal wrote. Rove's deputy, J. Scott Jennings, "former Bush legal counsel Harriet Miers and her deputies strangely had used gwb43.com as an e-mail domain."

E-mails released on March 14, 2007, showed that Jennings had "communicated with Justice officials about the appointment of Tim Griffin, a former Rove aide, to be the U.S. attorney in Little Rock. Jennings used an e-mail account registered to the Republican National Committee, where Griffin had worked as an opposition researcher," Dan Eggen and Paul Kane, reported March 14, 2007, in the Washington Post.

According to RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, "As a matter of course, the RNC provides server space and equipment to certain White House personnel in order to assist them with their political efforts," Eggen and Kane wrote.

"The revelation of the gwb43 e-mails illuminates the widespread exploitation of nongovernmental e-mail by Bush White House officials, which initially surfaced in the investigations and trial of convicted Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff," Blumenthal wrote. "Under the RNC's gwb43.com domain a myriad of e-mail accounts flourish, including the ones used by Rove's office to conduct his business with Abramoff. Among these accounts are ones for Republican Senate campaigns, for RepublicanVictoryTeam.com and the like, and, curiously, for ScooterLibby.com. The latter e-mail account serves the Web site of the defense fund of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. ScooterLibby.com amounts to an in-kind contribution from the RNC."

E-mails "lost"

"The White House will not identify a private company which appears to be involved in the disappearance of millions of White House e-mails," Justin Rood reported August 31, 2007, at ABC News' The Blotter.[1].

"The company was responsible for reviewing and archiving White House e-mails, a White House official told congressional staff in May, according to a letter yesterday from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Congressional investigators asked then for the name of the company and 'have repeatedly requested' the information since then, according to Waxman. […]."[1]

On April 11, 2007, the White House acknowledged "that e-mails dealing with official government business may have been lost because they were improperly sent through private accounts intended to be used for political activities."[2]

In response to this assertion, poster G.W. Bush at Power Line News Forum wrote on April 12, 2007:[3]

"But if they are telling us that every copy of those emails routed through gwb43.com and every single laptop used and every other server that bounces email forward has had a DOD level disk wipe performed, then a serious amount of effort has gone into hiding something.
"And are we to believe that the gwb43.com servers don’t have an automated backup system running on them? That every server that bounces an email forward has been wiped? Every laptop that has received an email has been wiped?
"It is ludicrous on its face."

Using AOL and other e-mail accounts

"Rove does 'about 95 percent' of his e-mailing using his RNC-based account. Many other aides in the Political Affairs Office 'use the RNC account as an alternative to their official government e-mail addresses to help keep their official and political duties separate.' Susan Ralston, Rove's former assistant, used not only an RNC account, but also accounts at georgebush.com and aol.com to communicate White House information with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At one point, an Abramoff aide noted that Ralston told him to e-mail her at her political account because 'it is better to not put this stuff in writing in [the White House] ... email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc.'" [2]

White House to RNC

The White House, in a letter dated April 17, 2007, urged the RNC to not turn over emails without prior White House review. [3]

RNC to White House

In a response letter to the White House, the RNC agreed to defer the release of emails to the White House. [4]

Subpoenas issued

On May 2, 2007, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary issued a subpoena for all e-mails from White House adviser Karl Rove that relate to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. [4]

On July 12, 2007, the House Committee on the Judiciary authorized issuing subpoenas to the Republican National Committee for documents and emails relating to the U.S. attorney firings. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had also subpoenaed the RNC for emails relating to the firings. Previously, the Judiciary Committee had sent a letter to RNC Chairman Robert M. Duncan in the spring requesting “prompt delivery” to the committee of “all e-mail communications and all meta-data underlying them” stored on RNC servers or under its control.[5]

Commentary

Responding to Sidney Blumenthal's March 29, 2007, article, poster abudabu commented:

"But now let's look at the amount of sneakiness going on here. The gwb43.com domain is extremely unusual. It has no HTTP server and archive.org confirms that it has never been used as a Web domain. It has no legitimate purpose at all. The reason it was created was to house these illicit e-mails. Why wasn't georgewbush.com sufficient? The similar case I referred to was bc-owl.org, a domain owned by the secretive Bohemian Club [sic]. They use it only for e-mail because the lack of a Web server makes it nearly invisible. If bc-owl.org had even a placeholder web server, people could look it up, or simply link to it to demonstrate the club's existence. Similarly, the Bush administration does not want gwb43.com to exist. No wonder the entire administration is suddenly saying 'I don't recall' and 'I plead the fifth'! The more they can distance themselves from this thing they don't want to exist, the better."

Question for journalilsts: gwb43.com e-mail sent or received?

The April 13, 2007, edition of the National Journal's Hotline on Call posed the following question.

"How many journalists sent e-mails to White House officials' name@gwb43.com accounts? How many journalists currently covering the e-mail story did this?"

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Justin Rood, "Bush E-Mail Mystery Deepens: White House Won't Name Tech Contractor," The Blotter Blog/ABC News, August 31, 2007.
  2. Michael Abramowitz and Dan Eggen, "White House E-Mail Lost in Private Accounts. Messages May Have Included Discussions About Firing of Eight Prosecutors," Washington Post, April 11, 2007.
  3. "White House says email is 'lost'," Power Line News Forum, April 12, 2007.
  4. Klaus Marre, "Leahy issues subpoena for Rove e-mails," The Hill, May 2, 2007.
  5. Caitlin Webber, "Subpoenas Authorized for RNC Documents on Firings," CQ, July 12, 2007.

External articles