Leahy: White House lying about lost emails

041307leahy.jpgThe White House’s claim that e-mails sent on a Republican Party account might have been lost was challenged Thursday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (left), who quipped that even his teenage neighbor could find them.

“They say they have not been preserved. I don’t believe that!” Leahy shouted from the Senate floor as the dispute over the firing of federal prosecutors continued at a high pitch.

“You can’t erase e-mails, not today. They’ve gone through too many servers,” said Leahy, D-Vt. “Those e-mails are there; they just don’t want to produce them. We’ll subpoena them if necessary.”

Later, Leahy and his committee’s ranking Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said the White House and lawmakers should agree on an independent forensic expert to try to recover the messages.

White House officials insisted the administration was making a genuine effort to recover any missing e-mails that had been sent on an account sponsored by the Republican National Committee.

“I understand his point, but he’s wrong,” spokeswoman Dana Perino said of Leahy.

“We’re being very honest and forthcoming,” she added. “I hope that he would understand the spirit in which we have come forward and tried to explain how we screwed up our policy and how we’re working to fix it.”

With five days left before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies before Leahy’s committee in an effort to save his job, lawmakers kept up the pressure in the latest dispute to grow out of the Justice Department’s firings of eight federal prosecutors.

In a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Leahy and Specter asked that the White House appoint “a fair and objective process for investigating this matter, including the use of a mutually trusted computer forensic expert.”

In the meantime, behind closed doors, Judiciary Committee aides from both chambers continued their interviews with Justice Department officials.

The investigation has revealed that White House e-mails about official business — on electronic accounts intended for political matters — may be gone, in violation of a law that requires their preservation. Twenty-two White House officials, including political adviser Karl Rove, have the accounts sponsored by the Republican National Committee, administration officials say.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel on Thursday could not rule out that some of the missing e-mails involved the attorney firings.

For the second day in a row, White House officials would not say whether the missing e-mails could be recovered.

Leahy scoffed.

“I’ve got a teenage kid in my neighborhood that can go get ’em for them,” he told reporters.

Retorted Perino: “I don’t know if Senator Leahy is also an IT expert.”

White House officials could not say how many e-mails may have been lost. Meetings Thursday between lawmakers’ aides and lawyers for the White House and RNC shed little new light, according to letters sent to the Gonzales and the RNC by the chairmen of congressional committees.

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said RNC lawyer Rob Kelner reported that roughly 50 White House officials have had e-mail accounts on the GOP committee’s servers during Bush’s tenure but the RNC may be able to recover only those sent from 2004 on. That’s when the RNC put a hold on an automatic purge policy.

It was unclear, Waxman wrote, whether the RNC had or would be able to recover e-mails written by White House officials, including Rove, and sent on the committee’s account.

A second Democratic House chairman, the Judiciary Committee’s John Conyers of Michigan, asked RNC Chairman Robert M. Duncan in a separate letter to provide all e-mails from any government employee regarding the firings directly to his panel rather than to the White House first.

“We would consider that to be an unjustified delay in responding to our request and potentially as an obstruction of our investigation,” Conyers wrote.

Conyers’ request could set the RNC against the White House, which has offered to issue documents sought by the committee under certain conditions. Within hours of Conyers’ letter to the RNC, the White House’s Fielding responded by offering some RNC e-mails — but only as part of an agreement for documents and testimony that lawmakers have already rejected.

Conyers’ response was curt.

“The Judiciary Committee intends to obtain the relevant e-mails directly from the RNC,” he said in a statement. “The White House position seems to be that executive privilege not only applies in the Oval Office, but to the RNC as well.”

For its part, the RNC did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, prepared to release more documents detailing the decisions leading up to the firings of the eight prosecutors. The department has already given more than 3,400 pages of e-mails, schedules, memos and other documents to congressional panels.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats tried to stave off charges of setting perjury traps for witnesses. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., released 10 questions the panel would be asking Gonzales.

“‘I don’t know’ will not be an adequate response to any question by the committee,” said Schumer, who is leading the investigation. Gonzales, who in the past has issued conflicting accounts of his role in the firings, emerged Thursday from weeks of closed-door preparations for his testimony to attend the funeral of an FBI agent in Readington Township, N.J.

Also Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized Leahy to issue subpoenas that would require the administration to surrender hundreds more documents and force two officials — Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella and White House political aide Scott Jennings — to reveal their roles in the firings. The panel delayed for a week a vote on whether to authorize a subpoena for Rove’s deputy, Sara Taylor.


Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. sadsack

    If the following isn’t calling them liars, I don’t understand the language:

    “They say they have not been preserved. I don’t believe that!” Leahy shouted from the Senate floor as the dispute over the firing of federal prosecutors continued at a high pitch.

    “You can’t erase e-mails, not today. They’ve gone through too many servers,” said Leahy, D-Vt. “Those e-mails are there; they just don’t want to produce them. We’ll subpoena them if necessary.”


  2. Proper Charlie

    Maybe when they array resources needed to find the Reps lost e-mail someone will happen upon all the other White House e-mail that Bill and Hillary were unable to produce for the special prosecutor.

    As I recall, their excuse was the loss was due to a glitch (and not to be compared with Hillary commanding her interns at the Rose Law firm to burn all papers in her files relevant to Whitewater and Madison Savings.)

    But I guess no one really cares now and we wouldn’t want to obstruct Hillary’s Grand Progress to the White House, now would we?

    In sum everybody does it so it must be all right.

  3. gene

    Bush and his followers are finally running out of time. We may not see the stress and here all the screaming behind the this fiasco but its their. Bush has turned his white house into a three ring circus and they (the white house) comprise most of the freak shows you pay extra to see.

    “Step right in folks and see the biggest lier in history” “come right in and see all of our freaks, their disgusting I know but its worth it” “epect to spend all day for we have so many”.

  4. Ray

    This story is so utterly descriptive of the entire history of the current ( and past ) administration, That I cannot present a meaningful comment other than How Much Dishonesty Does It Take for that 25% of faithfull followers to Realize they Support Evil and Destruction of American Values.

    Even a blind squirrell finds a nut eventually. Who could still support the current Liar in Chief or any of his lieing minions?

  5. SEAL

    He has made some mistakes but he is a good christian. He is trying to do the right thing. Everyone makes mistakes. I trust him.

    That’s what I hear from the bible belt.

    They are so religion blind they can’t see that the “born again christian” is phony, only an act.

  6. Warren

    Perhaps Mr. Leahy should send some his staff over to NSA. I’m sure the e-mails are all recorded there; along with all of yours and mine.


  7. Steven Horn

    I am an IT “expert” I suppose. I’ve worked in the field for over 23 years, I’ve got a masters and PhD in the discipline, in other words, I’m fairly well educated in how these beasts work.

    Unless the email system in question was designed by someone like GW there would have been backups, there would be redundant systems, there would be mirrored drives in disk array. The only way these emails could be “lost” would be through deliberate action.

    Now – I believe in my heart that the folks responsible for these servers ARE looking for evidence of the messages within their server clusters – so they can fully rid themselves of them. So they can clean their hard drives, so they can initiailize the backup tapes or drives involved, so they can have a nice, clean system for the inevitable third party investigation.

    Of course, this search would also involve any servers associated with those who sent or recieved the emails – including private email or webhost companies, the computers of the individuals on the recepient lists, the internet servers through which they connect – plus the host computers of any organization monitoring these types of transmission (NSA, CIA, FBI and a host of others, from our government, plus other nations and international organizations) – given the nature of packet communications, fragments of those documents are likely still bouncing around between various servers waiting to either be killed off or re-combined with the other bits and bytes from which they were originally composed.

    If they used encryption for their email system that may add a small layer of inconvenience, but trust me, if you can figure out a way to encrypt something, there are people out there who will take great delight in figuring out how to decrypt it!

    Now check the trash and files for hard copies of the document(s).

    In other words, technology has made it a lot harder to get rid of communications than it was when that 18 minute gap in the Nixon tapes was discovered.

    The documents in question can be found – the challenge is where to start the search – and how to get around the inevitable argument of “national security” as a reason to deny access to the systems and data in question.

  8. AustinRanter

    This ia another opportunity for Bush and his merry band of epicureans to pull another ROPA-DOPE strategy.

    Deny this accusation long enough, media will tire, the public will forget…and it will just slowly wind up in the Vault of Lies of the Bush Administration. Life will go on in Bushville.

  9. Michael DiMatteo

    Bravo Chairman Leahy!

    Your inquiry will soon show America and the World how the Bush administration turned the U.S. Justice Department into a covert cadre of high level RNC dirty tricksters a la Watergate.

  10. Helen Rainier

    The consequences of continually lying and being deceitful in your dealings with people is that you lose your credibility and your reputation and integrity become clouded. Anything and everything you do or say becomes impeached.

    This is precisely what is happening now to the Bushies. Very few people believe them and very people trust them.

    I had to chuckle at Dana Perino’s comment referencing honest and forthright. I’m sure she’s a very nice person, but those words with regard to this administration are nothing but oxymoronic.

    What the neocons can’t comprehend or refuse to understand is that We the People can and will be forgiving if we believe that the people heading our government are generally speaking honest and forthright. However, when that trust and belief has been violated, time and time again, as this administration has done, we will no longer believe, trust or give them the benefit of the doubt.

    For myself, I have evolved to the point that I believe anyone BUT spokespeople for this administration including its leaders.

  11. Judy Bodnar

    My grandson is a computer scientist, agrees with Steve Horn in that if e-mails in question have disappeared, it
    was with a great deal of help. Adding, nothing is ever “lost” in cyberspace that cannot be found without a bit of effort.

    And as for the Cotton’ post..Sen. Leahy did make that accusation.

    I for one am sick and tired of the lies, cover-ups and smoke screens that have been emanating from the Whate House environs. It is far past the time when we must get to the bottom of things and let this administration know that their deceptions will no longer be simply accepted and tolerated by “we the people”

  12. C. Nemo

    Leahy has been making “noise” for years and he’s still doing so, but I never see anything proactive coming out of his probes and investigations, not only now but in past years. Blah blah blah…more outrage then more yada yada from Whitehouse puppets etc., ad nauseam ad infinitum…!
    Finally the average American goes to zzzzzuh…zzzzzuh I-(
    and notice it’s not a happy, restful sleep either.
    Then notice ol’ Arlen “judas goat” Specter-R is always involved with even more dead-end, compromising solutions to the problem for the benefit of the Bushistas…?!

    America, like the Titanic is steaming in the dead of night through an iceberg field while incompetent lunatics without ships masters papers are at the helm. Everyone is partying hearty in the grand salon thinking everything is so rosy on this cruise to the “bottom”. America is truly in harms way!

  13. keefus

    It’s really comical how Bush and company STILL think they can control the flow of public information, as if there were still only 3 TV networks and a handful of print media.

    However, if the only tool you know how to use as a hammer, then you tend to treat everything as a nail.

    The “we can’t find it” routine is a “nail”. And it isn’t working.

    What a circus!