Thursday, March 15, 2007

E-Mails Show President and Republicans Avoiding Accountability

We should remember that the firing of the US Attorneys is not just a White House scandal. After all, there were Republican members of Congress putting pressure on these attorneys. No one should ever doubt that politicizing law enforcement has always been viewed as a quick route to a corrupt government. The media has all too frequently done a poor job of covering all the Republican nonsense in the White House and Congress over the last six years; in addition, too many members of the media have been providing sympathy for characters like Scooter Libby, who, even if he was a fall guy, was a knowing fall guy who lied and obstructed justice. The biggest mystery, question, scandal, whatever you want to call it, is why Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales still have jobs.

If you know how political wheeler dealer types avoid accountability, then it's important to pay attention to all the different revelations coming out about e-mails. One of the revelations is that these guys have multiple e-mail accounts whose sole purpose appears to be obscuring what kind of deals are going down in the White House, particularly political deals. Dan Froomkin of White House Watch posted this today: spite of the embarrassing revelations contained in the e-mails turned over by the Justice Department to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, the general rule at the White House is that if it's really sensitive, don't put it in writing -- certainly not in an e-mail.

That stuff gets archived.

The president himself, for instance, never uses e-mail at all.

And it now turns out that some of his aides sometimes avoid using their official White House e-mail accounts -- the ones that get automatically archived.

As I wrote in yesterday's column, Tuesday's document dump -- which initiated from the Justice Department, not the White House -- includes e-mails from J. Scott Jennings, Karl Rove's deputy at the White House, coming from an e-mail address at That's a domain owned by the Republican National Committee.

This raises all sorts of questions. I put four of them to a White House spokesman yesterday, but haven't gotten a response.

The questions:

1) Does White House policy allow White House staffers to use non-White House e-mail addresses for official White House business? Does it prohibit it? What is the policy?

2) Would these e-mails be treated any differently from official White House e-mails when it comes to archiving or subpoena purposes?

3) Does it create either impropriety or the appearance of impropriety that is a domain owned by the Republican National Committee?

4) Do other White House staffers regularly use non-White House e-mail accounts for White House business, and if so, why?

Since then, several readers have e-mailed me with their own questions and comments. So I've added four more, passed those along as well, and still no response:

5) Does non-White House e-mail fulfill security requirements for White House communications?

6) If other non-White House e-mail accounts are used, who are the providers for all of the other accounts? (Any others besides the RNC?)

7) Does White House policy allow White House staffers to use non-White House e-mail addresses from their computers, even for non-official business? I'm told that during the Clinton administration, access to external e-mail, including Web mail, was shut off from White House ( computers. Was there a conscious change of policy by the Bush administration? ...

What's all this official business doing on a Republican National Committee e-mail account? And why are there so many e-mail accounts associated with White House staffers? It's hard not think of other questions if this is evidence of avoiding the law, such as: just how many 'extra' cell phones are going in and out of the White House? And how many cell phones are being 'borrowed' by staffers from visitors who come to the White House? The President and his staff are conducting the people's business. We have a right to transparency and we have a right to answers.

Here's another story from ABC News:
New unreleased emails from top administration officials show the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than previously acknowledged by the White House. The e-mails also show Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse while he was still White House counsel—weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers and was her idea alone.
...the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by Karl Rove. 'Arrogant' no longer is a sufficient word to describe the Bush Administration.

The American people have once again been lied to by the White House. We are not surprised. It is time for Congress to take off the kid gloves, return to normal practice and have these characters testify under oath.

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