Follow the Emails

Sidney Blumenthal identifies what might be the Bush Administration’s achilles heel — White House business conducted with commercial and Republican Party email accounts.

Last week the National Journal disclosed that Karl Rove does “about 95 percent” of his e-mails outside the White House system, instead using a Republican National Committee account. What’s more, Rove doesn’t tap most of his messages on a White House computer, but rather on a BlackBerry provided by the RNC. By this method, Rove and other White House aides evade the legally required archiving of official e-mails. The first glimmer of this dodge appeared in a small item buried in a January 2004 issue of U.S. News & World Report: “‘I don’t want my E-mail made public,’ said one insider. As a result, many aides have shifted to Internet E-mail instead of the White House system. ‘It’s Yahoo!, baby,’ says a Bushie.”

The offshoring of White House records via RNC e-mails became apparent when an RNC domain, (referring to George W. Bush, 43rd president), turned up in a batch of e-mails the White House gave to House and Senate committees earlier this month. Rove’s deputy, Scott Jennings, former Bush legal counsel Harriet Miers and her deputies strangely had used as an e-mail domain.

The production of these e-mails to Congress was a kind of slip. In its tense negotiations with lawmakers, the White House has steadfastly refused to give Congress e-mails other than those between the White House and the Justice Department or the White House and Congress. E-mails among presidential aides have been withheld under the claim of executive privilege.

When I worked in the Clinton White House, people brought in their personal computers if they were engaged in any campaign work, but all official transactions had to be done within the White House system as stipulated by the Presidential Records Act of 1978. (The PRA requires that “the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records.”) Having forsaken the use of Executive Office of the President e-mail, executive privilege has been sacrificed. Moreover, Rove’s and the others’ practice may not be legal.

2 thoughts on “Follow the Emails

  1. Deja vu……In Illinois, the Republicans had held the grip on our state government and the governor’s office for many years. One of my relatives, who’d begun working in state govenment right out of high school [starting in the 60’s in secretarial work, retiring a few years ago as an administrative assistant to a department head] had an insider understanding of how politics destroyed good government.
    In the late 80’s, she told me that rules related to civil service had been fully usurped by patronage decisions. She described a process in which their agency would still go through the motions of interviewing candidates through the civil service system, which traditionally meant interviewing those applicants who had scored highest on pre-set tests and requirements. But amongst those applicants would be inserted a politically named individual who had to be given the job. I think my relative spoke about this back then only because it was so maddening to see the best applicant not be hired and then to watch the agency decline with the insertion of so many unqualified people mucking up the professionalism she had taken to heart.

    The voters in Illinois finally cleaned out the Republican majority who had subverted our state government to promote a party agenda. I really hope that happens nationally through the ’08 election.
    The only thing I would caution is that such subversion of the government by either party leaves a structural system of spoils that is awfully tempting for the opposing party to fall into…..sort of like a rutted road tends to cause all cars to drop into the ruts. With what Rove et al have done, I think we need to bulldoze and repave the road.

  2. Maybe the patriot act can be used to check out those off the record messages? Wouldn’t that be justice to have the same act they used to be used on them.

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