The White House is currently under fire for allegations that it violated the Presidential Records Act by failing to archive official e-mails. Facing a court order, the White House yesterday acknowledged that it recycled its “backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003,” raising the possibility that many messages “have been taped over and are gone forever.”
Yet when asked about the missing e-mails in today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Tony Fratto inexplicably tried to claim that the White House has “absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing.” He argued that these scurrilous charges of missing e-mails “came from outside the White House.” Watch it:
Perino’s substitute-for-the-day is in over his head. The White House itself has acknowledged the missing e-mails. As CREW executive director Melanie Sloan told ThinkProgress:
Tony Fratto is lying. There is considerable evidence demonstrating that millions of White House emails are missing from between 2003 and 2005; in fact, White House spokesperson Dana Perino confirmed this in a previous statement, televised on April 13, 2007.
As Sloan notes, on April 13, 2007, Perino explicitly told reporters, “I wouldn’t rule out that there were a potential 5 million e-mails lost. … We screwed up, and we’re trying to fix it.” Additionally, the White House officials admitted to the House Oversight Committee on May 29, 2007, that “an unknown number of e-mails may not have been preserved in the White House archive.”
When a reporter pointed out Perino’s April comment, Fratto simply replied that he was “not sure what was said on that.” After today’s stand-out performance before the cameras, Fratto may be back to desk duty tomorrow.
QUESTION: Could you address the missing White House e-mails in the lawsuit that was a subject of reports this morning?
Are, in fact, the e-mails missing? What’s the likelihood of their recovery?
FRATTO: I think our review of this — and you saw the court filing on this and our declaration and response to the judge’s questions. I think, to the best of what all the analysis we’ve been able to do, we have absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing.
There’s no evidence of that. There’s no — we tried to reconstruct some of the work that went into a chart that was entered into court records, and could not replicate that, or could not authenticate the correctness of the data in that chart.
And from everything that we can tell, our analysis of our back-up systems, we just — we have no reason to believe that any e-mail, at all, are missing.
QUESTION: So where are they, or what…
FRATTO: Where or what?
QUESTION: Where are they?
FRATTO: Which e-mail?
FRATTO: No one will tell you, categorically, about any system — any system, whether it’s, you know, your system at Bloomberg or our system here at the White House, past and present, categorically, that data cannot be missing.
But all of our review of it and all of our understanding of the way that the backup system works, it’s a backup system that captures existing data; it captures things that are stored and archived.
We have no reason to believe that there is any data missing at all. And we’ve certainly found no evidence of any data missing. […]
QUESTION: You’re saying they’re there; you just haven’t located them yet?
FRATTO: I’m saying we have no evidence that shows that anything, at all, is missing. And you’re saying, well, have you found the missing e-mails?
And we say, we have no evidence that anything is missing.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that would include e-mails that were erased from the Republican National Committee system that was used by some White House officials?
FRATTO: I can’t speak to the RNC’s — the RNC’s system of archiving and storing e-mail. All I can tell you is that e-mail on the White House computers, we have no reason to believe that any e- mail or other data are missing.
QUESTION: I want to follow up on that. I’ve taken a real sky view of this particular story, but — so it was wrong to say a few months ago that there were possibly millions of e-mails missing?
FRATTO: I think those charges came from outside the White House. I think that’s the charge of one of the…
QUESTION: One of your colleagues addressed those from the podium and suggested that that was accurate? Again, I’m taking…
FRATTO: I’m not sure what was said on that. I could tell you today, though, that we have no evidence and we have no way of showing that any e-mail at all are missing.