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White House Originally Claimed RNC Emails Were Archived, Only ‘Handful’ Of Staffers Had Accounts

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"White House Originally Claimed RNC Emails Were Archived, Only ‘Handful’ Of Staffers Had Accounts"

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On March 27, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that the RNC had been archiving all emails being sent through their accounts. Perino underscored that the archiving had not begun in response to Chairman Henry Waxman’s request to the RNC to preserve all emails, but rather “this has been something that was in place long before that.” She added, “The archiving that would have been for any of these — over the past few years, of emails that had been going back and forth between people that would have these accounts to the outside.”

When pressed on how many White House staffers use political email accounts, Perino claimed, “I think it’s a handful, I don’t think it’s a lot.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/04/perinorncemail.320.240.flv]

Yesterday, the White House acknowledged both those claims were false:

1) The White House also admitted yesterday that “archiving” was not taking place. “The White House has not done a good enough job overseeing staff using political e-mail accounts to assure compliance with the Presidential Records Act,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said in an unusual late-afternoon teleconference with reporters.

2) The White House acknowledged yesterday that far more than a “handful” of staffers used the political email accounts. The White House said 22 staffers have e-mail accounts issued by the Republican National Committee. “Since 2001, about 50 staffers e-mailed using the system.”

In reaction to the White House’s new admissions, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “This sounds like the administration’s version of the dog ate my homework. … I am deeply disturbed that just when this administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight it cannot produce the necessary information.”

(HT: TP reader M.E.)

Transcript:

Q So is that traffic being safeguarded, if you will, for Congress to look at, if it decides?

MS. PERINO: With respect to presidential records, an email that is sent to or from a White House email address is automatically archived, even if the other person is not using a White House email account. I believe our — well, I know that our White House Counsel’s Office is in communication with the RNC’s general counsel to make sure that those archivings have taken place.

Q So if someone sent aide X an email at one of these political accounts, are you saying that it would be archived on the —

MS. PERINO: As a general matter, I believe that to be true, but as I said, the White House — our White House Counsel’s Office is talking to the RNC just to make sure that that’s the case. In some cases — I don’t know how far back that goes. I think that — even though that there was email use in the ’90s, I do think that our administration is the first, in a lot of cases, to be dealing with the volume of email that all of us deal with on a daily basis and that now you guys get to have fun with looking through.

Q So how’s the White House going to respond to the request for them?

MS. PERINO: As I said, our White House Counsel’s Office is talking to the RNC, and then we’ll try to get back to you.

Q Is that in response to Senator Waxman’s call?

MS. PERINO: The archiving?

Q The archiving, yes.

MS. PERINO: No, this has been something that was in place long before that.

Q So it’s automatic?

MS. PERINO: Let me get back to you in terms of dates and how far it goes back and for which individuals.

Q I’m not sure I understand. The White House Counsel has asked the RNC to make sure which emails are archived?

MS. PERINO: Well, I took your question to be — I took your question just a second ago to be that we all knew — started archiving once Waxman made a request; that’s not true.

Q That’s not true?

MS. PERINO: No.

Q No, no, no. But you said that Attorney Fielding is in contact with the RNC to ensure — to make sure some archiving took place. What archiving is that? I’m sorry.

MS. PERINO: The archiving that would have been for any of these — over the past few years, of emails that had been going back and forth between people that would have these accounts to the outside.

Q How many people have those accounts?

MS. PERINO: I think it’s a handful, I don’t think it’s a lot. Obviously, the Office of Political Affairs, because they straddle these — both worlds. I know I don’t have one.

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