Researchers have discovered an 18-day gap in the 3,000 documents on the U.S. Attorney purge released this week by the Justice Department. The gap extends from mid-November to early December, “which was a critical period as the White House and Justice Department reviewed, then approved, which U.S. attorneys would be fired while also developing a political and communications strategy for countering any fallout from the firings.”
During today’s press briefing, CNN’s Ed Henry noted that one of the last emails before the gap is from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ ex-chief of staff Kyle Sampson to then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, asking, “Who will determine whether this requires the president’s attention?”
White House spokesman Tony Snow refused to explain the gap, telling reporters, “I’ve been led to believe that there’s a good response for it.” He said President Bush “has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.” Watch it:
UPDATE: Atrios notes, “[Snow] looked really really uncomfortable.”
UPDATE: II: Snow last week on the possibility of Bush’s involvement: “Anything’s possible.”
UPDATE III: The email:
HENRY: You keep saying the Justice Department, the response, the 3,000 pages, unprecedented, it’s very responsive. Why then is these this gap from mid-November to about December 4, right before the actual firings? Why is there a gap in the emails?
SNOW: I don’t know, why don’t you ask them.
HENRY: Well, you’re the White House, the Justice Department serves under…
SNOW: I know, but I’m not going to be the fact witness on Justice.
HENRY: But you’re the one representing that be this has been very responsive. Now when there’s a gap, you say go to them —
SNOW: Yeah, and I’ve been led to believe — I’ve been led to believe that there’s a good response for it, but I’m going to let you ask them because they’re going to have the answer.
HENRY: Now, here’s one email from November 15 that says, from Mr. Simpson to Harriet Miers, “Who will determine whether this requires the president’s attention?” And then there is a gap in emails. Was there any, you think, perhaps any email about the president in there? And did the president have to sign off on this, because the question was raised…
SNOW: The president has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.
REPORTER: For the record, this gap between mid-november and early december — is there a gap because there are no e-mails pertaining to this situation between them? Or are there more e-mails to come out?
SNOW: That I don’t know. Like I said, that’s why I think you need to go back and ask the Department of Justice. They’ve done the document production. We have not been in charge of it. I would refer questions to them.
REPORTER: Just to follow, can you say again on the record that the president has no recollection of ever being asked about any of this?
SNOW: Yeah, the removal — yes, that is correct.