More on the White House RNC e-mails

March 30, 2007

Follow the e-mails
Sidney Blumenthal
March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007 | The rise and fall of the Bush presidency has had four phases: the befuddled period of steady political decline during the president’s first nine months; the high tide of hubris from Sept. 11, 2001, through the 2004 election; the self-destructive overreaching to consolidate a one-party state from 2005 to 2006, culminating in the repudiation of the Republican Congress; and, now, the terminal stage, the great unraveling, as the Democratic Congress works to uncover the abuses of the previous six years.


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. Last week the National Journal disclosed 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 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, (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. Rove’s deputy, Scott Jennings, former Bush legal counsel Harriet Miers and her deputies strangely had used as an e-mail domain.


When I worked in the Clinton White House, people brought in their personal computers if they were engaged in any campaign work, but all official transactions had to be done within the White House system as stipulated by the Presidential Records Act of 1978. (The PRA requires that “the President shall take 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.”) Having forsaken the use of Executive Office of the President e-mail, executive privilege has been sacrificed. Moreover, Rove’s and the others’ practice may not be legal.

Continued here.

Waxman Reveals New Evidence Showing White House Use Of Political E-mail Accounts
March 29, 2007

U.S. News reported recently that several White House aides “said that they stopped using the White House system except for purely professional correspondence. … ‘We knew E-mails could be subpoenaed,’” said one aide.

In a new letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, House Government and Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman reveals new e-mail communications that provide further evidence that White House employees were trying to circumvent the archives system:

New Scott Jennings E-Mails. Scott Jennings, the deputy director of political affairs in the White House, and his assistant used “” e-mail accounts to communicate with the General Services Administration about a partisan briefing that Mr. Jennings gave to political appointees at GSA on January 26, 2007. When Mr. Jennings’s assistant emailed the PowerPoint presentation to GSA, she wrote: “It is a close hold and we’re not supposed to be emailing it around.”

Continued here.

On March 29, 2007, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to White House Counsel, Fred Fielding, inquiring about the administration’s e-mail policies:


Moreover, U.S. News & World Report reported yesterday that my letter on Monday to the RNC may be driving official White House communications even further underground. According to this report, at least two White House aides have now “bought their own private E-mail system through a cellular phone or Blackberry server” to avoid the possibilities of subpoenas. Another aide told U.S. News that he now communicates through “texting.”

The statements of White House spokesperson Dana Perino at a press briefing this week only further confused the issue. She said: “Of course, people are encouraged, on official White House business, to use their official White House accounts.” But she did not cite any specific policy or guidance issued to White House staff regarding the use of e-mail accounts and the preservation of presidential records, and she acknowledged that certain officials in the White House have been given access to political e-mail accounts. When asked if a new directive had been issued to White House staff reminding them to use their White House e-mails, she stated, “I don’t know of any new directive, but it is what we ask people to do.”

Read the entire letter here. Mr. Waxman concluded with a request for information about White House policies regarding the preservation of records, including those created on nongovernmental e-mail accounts, by April 5, 2007, and also asked for a briefing on these matters by Fielding or his representative during the week of April 2, 2007.


The Bush Library in Slate and the White House RNC emails

March 29, 2007

This Slate article reveals how the Bush Library controversy has become embedded in larger debates over administration policies and allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct. See also in Slate an interesting critique of “George Bush’s favorite historian,” Andrew Roberts.

Every Man for Himself: Bush administration discipline slips further
John Dickerson
March 27, 2007

As George Bush’s tenure winds down, he has started thinking about building his presidential library. Somewhere off the Mission Accomplished Atrium he should put a boxing ring. An administration that came into office boasting of exemplary teamwork looks like it’s going to end in a hail of blame-placing, finger-pointing, and backbiting.

Continued here.

And the revelations about the use of private e-mail accounts by government officials, apparently in order to prevent the archiving of these public records as required by the Presidential Records Act, is another brewing scandal. It also raises serious doubts about the historical value of the Bush Library as the ultimate repository for the documentary record of this administration, as touted by its supporters, if a deliberate attempt is being made to conceal the real paper trail. On Wednesday, March 28, 2007, Senators Patrick Leahy and John Conyers sent a joint letter to White House Counsel, Fred Fielding (of Watergate fame).


We urge you to provide all relevant documents without delay. The White House documents to and from the Deptartment of Justice and with third parties, such as Republican state party officials, should be provided to us without delay. You have acknowledged your willingness to provide those to us previously.


In addition, we have become increasingly sensitized over the last several days to the White House staff wearing several “hats” and using Republican National Committee and campaign e-mail addresses. In fact, as Chairman Waxman has recently pointed out, congressional investigations, including this one, “have uncovered evidence that White House Staff have used nongovernmental e-mail accounts to conduct official government business.”


As Chairman Waxman has also pointed out, many exchanges between Jack Abramoff and White House officials were conducted via non-governmental e-mail accounts. Indeed, he quotes exchanges that suggest that Mr. Abramoff and House officials were using the nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a White House “record” of the communications.


Accordingly, we trust that you will be collecting and producing e-mails and documents from all e-mail accounts, addresses and domains and that you are not artificially limiting your production to the official White House e-mail and document retention system.

Read the entire letter here.

Washington Post: House Passes Open-Government Bills

March 16, 2007

House Passes Open-Government Bills
Elizabeth Williamson and Jonathan Weisman
The Washington Post
March 15, 2007

In a bipartisan confrontation with the White House over executive branch secrecy, the House ignored a stern veto threat and overwhelmingly passed a package of open-government bills yesterday that would roll back administration efforts to shield its workings from public view.

Even top Republicans supported three bills that would streamline access to records in presidential libraries, expand safeguards for government whistle-blowers, and strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which guides public requests for government documents. All were approved with veto-proof majorities.

Continued here.

Dallas Morning News: House votes to reverse Bush’s sealed-records order

March 16, 2007

House votes to reverse Bush’s sealed-records order
Todd J. Gillman and Sudeep Reddy
The Dallas Morning News
March 15, 2007

WASHINGTON – Defying a veto threat, the House dealt President Bush an overwhelming rebuke Wednesday by voting to overturn a five-year-old executive order that lets ex-presidents – and their widows and children – seal White House records for as long as they want, for any reason.

The House also voted to force Mr. Bush and future presidents to identify donors to the libraries built to house their papers and guard their legacies.

Both measures could dramatically affect the complex that Mr. Bush is negotiating to build at Southern Methodist University – affecting researchers’ access to his papers and complicating plans to raise money for the archive, museum and policy institute.

Continued here.

U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 1254 and 1255

March 14, 2007

What could be more fitting that during “Sunshine Week,” these two important bills passed the House with strong bipartisan support? H.R. 1254, or the “Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2007” passed with somewhat more support from Republicans than H.R. 1255, the “Presidential Records Act,” but watching the votes was quite exciting for this proud American citizen.

AHA Action Alert: Tell Congress to Restore Access to Presidential Records

March 11, 2007

ALERT-Tell Congress to Restore Access to Presidential Records
AHA Today
March 9, 2007

On March 8, 2007, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unanimously approved H.R. 1255, the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007.” The bill is expected to go to the House floor the week of March 12.

The National Coalition for History is asking everyone in the historical and archival community to contact their House member as soon as possible and ask that they support H.R. 1255. A summary of the bill is available below.

Here is a link to the NCH’s CapWiz legislative grassroots site. This site allows you to either send a pre-written electronic letter to your Member of Congress or to edit the letter we have prepared to express your own personal views.

Continued here.

Toledo Blade editorial: Disclose library gifts

March 11, 2007

Disclose library gifts
Toledo Blade
March 10, 2007

A BIPARTISAN group in Congress is on the mark with legislation to require full public disclosure of donations to presidential libraries, like the $200 million-plus Taj Mahal planned by George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University down in Dallas.

No requirement now exists for such disclosure, leaving open the potential for all sorts of influence peddling, including incipient bribery, involving sitting or retired presidents.

Although the bill has a better chance of passage now that Democrats control Congress, the concern over who may be giving big bucks to benefit current or ex-chief executives is not new and is shared by members of both parties.

Continued here.