RNC lawyer admits at least four years of Rove emails missing
Michael Roston
Published: Friday April 13, 2007
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(Update at bottom: Lawyer says Rove didn't mean to delete emails)

At least four years of emails sent by White House adviser Karl Rove have gone missing, a lawyer for the Republican National Committee informed congressional staff members Thursday, a front page article in today's Washington Post reports.

"GOP officials took issue with Rep. Henry Waxman's account of the briefing and said they still hope to find the e-mail as they conduct forensic work on their computer equipment," Michael Abramowitz reports for the Post. "But they acknowledged that they took action to prevent Rove -- and Rove alone among the two dozen or so White House officials with RNC accounts -- from deleting his e-mails from the RNC server. Waxman (D-Calif.) said he was told the RNC made that move in 2005."

After the Thursday briefing, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a letter directing government agencies to retain communications sent as email by White House staffers who used non-governmental mail addresses, many of which were issued by the Republican National Committee.

"Following briefings from the White House and Republican National Committee that revealed an extensive volume of e-mails regarding official government business may have been destroyed by the RNC," a statement accompanying the letter, obtained by RAW STORY, says, "Chairman Waxman directs government agencies to preserve e-mails received from or sent to non-governmental e-mail accounts used by White House staffers."

The House committee is also asking the agencies to provide "an inventory of all e-mails involving these accounts."

"Democrats are suspicious that Rove and other senior officials were using the political accounts, set up by the RNC, to avoid scrutiny from Congress," the Washington Post article continues. "E-mails already in the public record suggest that at least some White House officials were mindful of a need not to discuss certain matters within the official White House e-mail system."

The top Senate Democrat leading investigations into the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys by the Justice Department is comparing e-mails lost by the Republican National Committee to President Richard Nixon's famous "18-minute gap" in White House tape recordings.

"Now we are learning that the 'off book' communications they were having about these actions, by using Republican political email addresses, have not been preserved," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor Thursday.

He added, "Like the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes, it appears likely that key documentation has been erased or misplaced. This sounds like the Administration's version of 'the dog ate my homework.'"

The senator was referring to the Nixon White House tapes subpoenaed during the Watergate investigation. On one tape, there was an 18 1/2 minute gap. The former president's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, claimed responsibility for "accidentally" erasing 5 minutes of the recording, but not the remainder of the gap. Further investigations raised questions about the veracity of her testimony.

Excerpts from Post article:


In a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Waxman said the RNC lawyer, Rob Kelner, also raised the possibility that Rove had personally deleted the missing e-mails, all dating back to before 2005. GOP officials said Kelner was merely speaking hypothetically about why e-mail might be missing for any staffer and not referring to Rove in particular.


"You can't erase e-mails, not today," Leahy said in an angry speech on the Senate floor. "They've gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there -- they just don't want to produce them. It's like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes."

White House officials rejected that explanation. "What we have done has been forthcoming, honest," spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "We are trying to understand to the best of our ability the universe of the e-mails that were potentially lost, and we are taking steps to make sure that we use the forensics that are available to retrieve any of those that are lost.



Lawyer: Rove didn't mean to delete emails

On Friday, Rove's attorney "dismissed the notion that President Bush's chief political adviser intentionally deleted his own e-mails from a Republican-sponsored server, saying Rove believed the communications were being preserved in accordance with the law," the Associated Press reports.

According to attorney Robert Luskin, Rove was under the "understanding" that all of his emails had already been archived by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the CIA leak case, who had subpoenaed them.

"His understanding starting very, very early in the administration was that those e-mails were being archived," Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said.

Laurie Kellman reports for the AP, "The prosecutor probing the Valerie Plame spy case saw and copied all of Rove's e-mails from his various accounts after searching Rove's laptop, his home computer, and the handheld computer devices he used for both the White House and Republican National Committee, Luskin said. The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, subpoenaed the e-mails from the White House, the RNC and Bush's re-election campaign, he added."

"There's never been any suggestion that Fitzgerald had anything less than a complete record," Luskin told the AP.

Excerpts from AP article:


Any e-mails Rove deleted were the type of routine deletions people make to keep their inboxes orderly, Luskin said. He said Rove had no idea the e-mails were being deleted from the server, a central computer that managed the e-mail.


Rove voluntarily allowed investigators in the Plame case to review his laptop and copy the entire hard drive, from which investigators could have recovered even deleted e-mails, Luskin said.

As the investigation was winding down, Luskin said, prosecutors came to his office and reviewed all the documents - including e-mails - he had collected to be sure both sides a complete set. Luskin said he has not heard from Fitzgerald's office and said that, if Fitzgerald believed any e-mails were destroyed, he would have called. Fitzgerald's office declined comment.