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Olbermann: 'Infinity minus 140,216 improper emails'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday June 19, 2007
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"In Watergate, America was astounded by the fact that 18 1/2 minutes of secret presidential recordings were missing," stated Keith Olbermann on Monday. "Tonight the latest Bush administration scandal, as yet unchristened, makes that figure seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket. Try this number: Infinity minus 140,216. Karl Rove's improper emails. The 140,000 are the ones still preserved. The rest -- the infinity part -- the ones that were destroyed."

Olbermann went on to describe the "jaw-dropping scandal" uncovered by Congressional investigators, where, in the most serious breach of the Presidential Records Act since its enactment, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of emails improperly sent by White House officials through outside emails servers may have been illegally destroyed.

As one example of the vast scope of the destruction, only 130 of Karl Rove's emails still preserved on the Republican National Committee's servers date from Bush's first term, and none of those is from prior to November 2003. Rove was only one of at least 88 White House officials apparently using those RNC servers to transact political business on government property -- which under the Hatch Act is illegal in itself. Other outside servers, such as those of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign organization, were used as well.

Olberman then showed a clip of Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow being asked about the scandal and claiming, "We've seen a number of times right now, people have been putting together investigations to see what sticks. They have had very little success so far. This is an administration that is very careful about obeying the law."

Olbermann spoke to correspondent David Shuster about the growing scandal, which might have involved as many as 100 White House officials in an organized and widespread effort to engage in illegal activity. Suspicions that these officials were improperly mixing politics with government are increased by the fact that 51 of the known email accounts are missing entirely, including those of highly political figures like then-White House political director Ken Mehlman.

Shuster explained that two different laws are involved, the Presidential Records Act, "which requires officials not to destroy or delete official correspondence," and the Hatch Act, which prohibits engaging in political business on government property. When asked what happens next, Shuster said that Congressional subpoenas have been issued for White House officials in the attorney scandal, and they can now be asked about the RNC emails as well. The Office of Special Counsel has also started investigating possible Hatch Act violations and could make criminal referrals.

Olbermann then asked Newsweek's Howard Fineman, "Other than something drastic that they're not going to do -- impeachment, a special prosecutor to pursue erased emails -- what can Congress do about that?" Fineman responded that "they're working their way up the chain" and he expects to see subpoenas for Mehlman and Rove. However, "The White House Counsel's office will laugh at the subpoenas and not honor them, and we'll be back in the [Supreme] Court, which is where the Bush presidency began."

Fineman concluded by linking the email scandal to the US attorneys scandal, saying "This administration was dedicated to destroying whatever barriers there were between politics and the operation of the government."

The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on June 18.