Multiple congressional investigations have uncovered evidence that White House appointees regularly communicate using email accounts provided by the Republican Party. As CREW has argued, such activity violates the Presidential Records Act, which requires that the White House preserve such records.
Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued letters to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 Campaign directing them to preserve all emails by and for White House officials, and to meet with the committee about the legal issues involved in conducting official government business using partisan email accounts. From Waxman’s letter:
The e-mails of White House officials maintained on RNC e-mail accounts may be relevant to multiple congressional investigations. For this reason, the Committee directs you to preserve all e-mails sent or received by White House officials using e-mail accounts under your control.
In addition, the Committee requests that you or your designee meet with Committee staff during the week of April 2,2007, to discuss the following five matters:
– Who has access to the e-mail accounts maintained by the RNC; [...]
– What steps have been taken to preserve the e-mail accounts maintained by the RNC that have been used by White House officials;
– What assurance can the RNC provide the Committee that no e-mails involving official White House business have been destroyed or altered.
As Waxman points out in his letter, communications between criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and White House officials were conducted via nongovernmental e-mail accounts. “In at least one case, the e-mails indicate that these nonofficial accounts were being used because ‘to put this stuff in writing in their e-mail system…might actually limit what they can do to help us.’”
On Friday, National Journal reported that Karl Rove does almost all of his work with an RNC-based email account:
According to one former White House official familiar with Rove’s work habits, the president’s top political adviser does ‘about 95 percent’ of his e-mailing using his RNC-based account. … The former White House official, speaking on background, said that although the RNC had a policy to purge e-mails after a short period of time, Rove’s e-mails on its system and those of a few other White House aides in sensitive positions were preserved by the RNC “to protect Karl.” Even with a policy of deleting e-mails from servers, information-technology experts say, organizations rarely erase data entirely.
UPDATE: The Carpetbagger Report has more, and reminds readers of similar questions posed to the president’s communications office by Dan Froomkin.