Politics

Investigation Uncovers ‘Extensive Destruction’ Of RNC Emails, Violations Of Records Act

House investigators have learned that the Bush administration’s use of Republican National Committee email accounts is far greater than previously disclosed — 140,216 emails sent or received by Karl Rove alone — and that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of many of the emails, including all email records for 51 White House officials.

For the last several months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been “investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act” by using email accounts maintained by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign for official White House communications. Today’s findings confirm that the accounts were used “for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.” The report adds:

Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.

Some other key findings:

— RNC account use far greater than believed: Despite White House spokesperson Dana Perino’s claim that 50 White House officials used RNC email accounts “over the course of the administration,” the committee learned that at least 88 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts.

— Bush-Cheney 04 campaign stonewalling: The committee says it may need to “issue compulsory process” to force the cooperation of the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign. Despite providing at least eleven White House officials with email accounts, “the campaign has unjustifiably refused” to provide the Committee with even the most basic information about the accounts, including the number of e-mails that have been preserved.

— Destroyed RNC emails may be preserved by federal agencies. The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Karl Rove during Bush’s first term and no e-mails sent by Rove prior to November 2003. “For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006.” Several federal agencies contacted by the committee have indicated they “have preserved official communications that were destroyed by the RNC,” but others have resisted the investigation.

— Gonzales may have known about RNC account use. According to a deposition from Rove’s former assistant Susan Ralston, in 2001, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales “may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.” The committee calls for an investigation into Gonzales’ actions on this matter.

Read the full oversight committee report HERE.

UPDATE: The Gavel has several additional links. Christy Hardin Smith has additional analysis.

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UPDATE II: Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) statement:

This Administration’s penchant for secrecy and disdain for oversight seems to know no bounds. It is troubling that so many senior White House officials, including Karl Rove and his former deputy Sara Taylor, were engaging in an effort to avoid oversight and accountability by ignoring the laws meant to ensure a public record of official government business. This extensive end-run around the laws leads one to wonder what these officials wanted to hide from the public and Congress.

This report indicates that Mr. Rove and Ms. Taylor were some of the heaviest users of these RNC e-mail accounts, and both officials have been linked to a project to fire several Department of Justice prosecutors that is currently the subject of congressional investigations. Now that we know more than 100,000 of Mr. Rove’s secret e-mails have not been destroyed, I hope the White House will respond to my request for any e-mails from his account that are relevant to the Judiciary Committee’s investigation. I look forward to Ms. Taylor searching the thousands of e-mails from her account in accordance with a subpoena she was issued last week.