Bush White House email controversy
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The Bush White House email controversy surfaced in 2007, during the controversy involving the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. Congressional requests for administration documents while investigating the dismissals of the U.S. attorneys required the Bush administration to reveal that not all internal White House emails were available, because they were sent via a non-government domain hosted on an email server not controlled by the federal government. Conducting governmental business in this manner is a possible violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, and the Hatch Act. Over 5 million emails may have been lost or deleted. Greg Palast claims to have come up with 500 of the Karl Rove lost emails, leading to damaging allegations. In 2009, it was announced that as many as 22 million emails may have been deleted.
See also: Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
The administration officials had been using a private Internet domain, called gwb43.com, owned by and hosted on an email server run by the Republican National Committee, for various communications of unknown content or purpose. The domain name is an acronym standing for "George W. Bush, 43rd" President of the United States. The server came public when it was discovered that J. Scott Jennings, the White House's deputy director of political affairs, was using a gwb43.com email address to discuss the firing of the U.S. attorney for Arkansas. Communications by federal employees were also found on georgewbush.com (registered to "Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.") and rnchq.org (registered to "Republican National Committee"), but, unlike these two servers, gwb43.com has no Web server connected to it — it is used only for email.
The "gwb43.com" domain name was publicized by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who sent a letter to Oversight and Government Reform Committee committee chairman Henry A. Waxman requesting an investigation. Waxman sent a formal warning to the RNC, advising them to retain copies of all emails sent by White House employees. According to Waxman, "in some instances, White House officials were using nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications." The Republican National Committee claims to have erased the emails, supposedly making them unavailable for Congressional investigators.
On April 12, 2007, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel stated that White House staffers were told to use RNC accounts to "err on the side of avoiding violations of the Hatch Act, but they should also retain that information so it can be reviewed for the Presidential Records Act," and that "some employees ... have communicated about official business on those political email accounts." Stanzel also said that even though RNC policy since 2004 has been to retain all emails of White House staff with RNC accounts, the staffers had the ability to delete the email themselves.
Dead Letter Office
Some of the "missing" emails that were sent through the RNC accounts were mistakenly addressed to georgewbush.org, a parody site. Text of the misaddressed emails is available at the Dead Letter Office.[verification needed]
Use by senior White House staff
According to a former White House official, Karl Rove used RNC-hosted addresses for roughly "95 percent" of his email. Rove provided email from his [email protected]
address in exhibits to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary.
White House deputy Jennifer Farley told Jack Abramoff not to use the official White House system "because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc." Abramoff responded, "Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her RNC pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system."
Investigations with missing emails
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
The House Oversight committee in an interim staff report, released on June 18, 2007:
At least eighty-eight Republican National Committee email accounts were granted to senior Bush administration officials, not "just a handful" as previously reported by the White House spokesperson Dana Perino in March 2007. Her estimate was later revised to "about fifty." Officials with accounts included: Karl Rove, the President’s senior advisor; Andrew Card, the former White House Chief of Staff; Ken Mehlman, the former White House Director of Political Affairs; and many other officials in the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Communications, and the Office of the Vice President.
The RNC has 140,216 emails sent or received by Karl Rove. Over half of these emails (75,374) were sent to or received from individuals using official ".gov" email accounts. Other users of RNC email accounts include former Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor (66,018 emails) and Deputy Director of Political Affairs Scott Jennings (35,198 emails). These email accounts were used by White House officials for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.
Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC email accounts, the RNC has preserved no emails for 51 officials.
There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC email accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.
The evidence obtained by the Committee indicates that White House officials used their RNC email accounts in a manner that circumvented these requirements. At this point in the investigation, it is not possible to determine precisely how many presidential records may have been destroyed by the RNC. Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC email accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing emails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.
G. W. Bush administration officials involved
Fred F. Fielding, White House Counsel
William K. Kelley, Deputy White House Counsel
William Moschella, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General
Brett Tolman, U.S. Attorney, District of Utah, former counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee
Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. Attorney, Western District of Pennsylvania, former Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys from 2004 to 2005
Involved administration officials who resigned
Alberto Gonzales, United States Attorney General, former White House Counsel
Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General
Michael A. Battle, Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
Michael Elston, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General
Monica Goodling, Justice Department's liaison to the White House
William W. Mercer, U.S. Attorney, Acting Associate Attorney General (retains position as U.S. Attorney in Montana)
Sara Taylor, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Political Affairs
Paul McNulty, Deputy Attorney General
Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel (resigned prior to publicity surrounding the controversy, effective January 31, 2007)
Karl Rove, White House Deputy Chief of Staff
Bradley Schlozman, Director Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys; former Acting Assistant Attorney General for, and later Principal Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division; former interim U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Patrick Leahy, Chair (D)
Arlen Specter, Ranking member, former Chair (R)
Chuck Schumer, Chair: Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts (D)
U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary
John Conyers, Chair (D)
Lamar Smith, Ranking member (R)
Linda Sánchez, Chair: Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (D)
Main article: Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
During the investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, it became known White House staff was using Republican National Committee (RNC) email accounts. The White House stated it might have lost five million emails.
On May 2, 2007, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Department of Justice (DOJ) compelling the production of email Karl Rove sent to DOJ staff, regarding evaluation and dismissal of attorneys, no matter what email account Rove used, whether White House or National Republican party accounts, or other accounts, with a deadline of May 15, 2007 for compliance. The subpoena also demanded relevant email previously produced in the Valerie Plame controversy and investigation for the CIA leak scandal (2003).
CIA leak grand jury investigation
Main articles: CIA leak scandal, CIA leak grand jury investigation and Niger uranium forgeries
Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson alleged that his wife's identity was covert and that members of the George W. Bush administration knowingly revealed that information as retribution for his New York Times op-ed entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," of July 6, 2003, regarding the claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, while investigating the leak, found that emails were missing from the White House server. Mother Jones wrote that this is possibly the reason the RNC changed the policy of deleting emails after 30 days to saving all email sent and received by White House officials. In light of the apparent vanished emails Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked to reopen the investigation.
General Services Administration
Main article: General Services Administration
It is feared that the missing emails might also have an impact on congressional investigation of General Services Administration.
Department of Education
Main article: United States Department of Education
While investigating the Reading First program CREW learned that employees use private emails to conduct official business. This might be a violation of the Federal Records Act.
The Hatch Act
Main article: Hatch Act of 1939
The Hatch Act prohibits the use of government resources, including email accounts, for political purposes. The Bush administration stated the RNC accounts were used to prevent violation of this Act.
Presidential Records Act
Main article: Presidential Records Act
The Presidential Records Act mandates the preservation of all presidential records. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Wall Street Journal contend that the missing emails may constitute a violation of this Act.
Henry H. Kennedy, Jr.
Mark F. Lindsay
Rove and Co. Broke Federal Law With Email Scam by Jonathan Stein, Mother Jones, April 12, 2007
CREW Releases New Report - Without A Trace: The Missing White House Emails and The Violations of The Presidential Records Act Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, April 13, 2006
Officials' e-mails may be missing, White House says Democrats in Congress want messages from private system for probe of U.S. attorney firings By Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2007
"I have Karl Rove’s emails". gregpalast.com. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
""Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Iraq": 22 Million Lost Bush White House Emails Recovered".
The Guardian. White House Says It Still Backs Gonzales. 25 March 2007.
Washington Post. GOP Groups Told to Keep Bush Officials' E-Mails. 27 March 2007
"georgewbush.com Whois Record". (domaintools.com). Retrieved 2009-08-11.
"rnchq.org Whois Record". (domaintools.com). Retrieved 2009-08-11.
CREW asks for House Investigation into White House violations of Presidential Records Act.. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), 15 March 2007.
The Hill. Waxman wants RNC, Bush campaign to preserve e-mails. 26 March 2007
News from CNN
White House - April 12, 2007 Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel
the Dead Letter Office
Froomkin, Dan. The Rovian Theory washingtonpost.com 2007-03-23
"Rove Exhibits Part 1" (PDF). pp. 50, 55, 113 etc. and "Rove Exhibits Part 2" (PDF). pp. 8, 10, 40, 46. and "White House Documents". United States House Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
Financial Times. Aides to Bush told not to destroy e-mails. 26 March 2007
Committee Staff (2007-06-18). "The Use of RNC E-Mail Accounts by White House Officials". Interim Report: Administration Oversight, White House Use of Private E-mail Accounts (U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform). Archived from the original on 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
Dismissal attorneys uncommon
Republicans and U.S. attorneys -- then and now by Glenn Greenwald, Salon, March 19, 2007
Inserting Politics Into Justice By E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, March 24, 2007
Advisers' E-Mail Accounts May Have Mixed Politics and Business, White House Says By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, New York Times, April 12, 2007
Lahey, Patrick Rove Email Subpoena United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary (via Findlaw) May 2, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2007.
The Situation Room, CNN.Transcript
White House Fails To Archive E-Mail; Issue in CIA Leak Case By JOSH GERSTEIN, The New York Sun, February 2, 2006
Mother Jones: RE: Those Missing White House Emails. April 13, 2007
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: CREW Writes Patrick Fitzgerald Asking to Re-Open Rove Case in Light of Missing Emails. April 13, 2007.
CREW Writes Patrick Fitzgerald Asking to Re-Open Rove Case in Light of Missing Emails Yahoo, April 13, 2007
Immunity for Ex-Gonzales Aide Weighed Potential Witness's Role in Firings Cited By Paul Kane, The Washington Post, April 18, 2007; Page A08
CREW learns Dept. of Education staff are using private e-mails in violation of federal law CREW, May 16, 2007
Ethics watchdog accuses Education Department of illegal e-mail use by Nick Juliano, Raw Story, May 16, 2007
LEGAL WORRIES OVER MISSING EMAILS GROW by John D. McKinnon, Wall Street Journal
Chronology of White House E-Mail Controversy National Security Archive, The George Washington University, April 17, 2008.
Presidential Records Act (PRA) U.S. National Archives and Records Administration - Description of the records that must be retained by the President.
Political Activity (Hatch Act) Office of Special Counsel -- A discussion of restrictions on political activity by federal government employees.
White House Email Controversy DominoPower and OutlookPower Magazines -- A detailed, non-political technical analysis special report.
Where Have All The Emails Gone? How Something As Seemingly Benign as White House Email Can Have Freaky National Security Consequences --An in-depth book based on the DominoPower and OutlookPower articles, plus a website with detailed forensic sources on the controversy.
Jesse Lee. House Speaker Pelosi's office writes about House Oversight Committee investigation Links to deposition transcript of Susan Ralston, describing Karl Rove's use of non-White House accounts for government purposes, and link to the Oversight Committee's report. June 18, 2007.
White House Admits No Back-Up Tapes for E-mail Before October 2003 National Security Archive, The George Washington University, January 16, 2008.