Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to handle emails extremely carefully, Republican edition

WASHINGTON, April 13 — Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for President Bush, did not intentionally delete e-mail messages to avoid creating a paper trail detailing his work, his lawyer said on Friday. Rather, he mistakenly thought that the messages were being preserved by the Republican National Committee.

“Karl has always understood that his R.N.C. e-mails were being archived,” the lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in an interview. “He has never asked or sought any kind of special treatment to permit him to delete anything.”

In addition to their government e-mail addresses, Mr. Rove and 21 other White House officials maintain e-mail accounts with the national committee that are supposed to be used for political business only.

Facing questions from Democrats and in the news media, the White House has said that some e-mail messages from the political accounts are missing and that it is working to recover them. The party committee, which until August 2004 automatically deleted e-mail from its server after 30 days, has said it has no e-mail records for Mr. Rove before 2005. But Rob Kelner, a lawyer for the R.N.C., said that work to recreate the lost records was under way on Friday and that some e-mail had already been retrieved.

On Friday, a watchdog group called on Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, to reopen his investigation into whether Mr. Rove was involved in leaking the name of a C.I.A. agent. Mr. Rove had been cleared in the inquiry, but the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said this week’s revelations about missing e-mail raised questions about whether he might have destroyed or hidden documents. . . .

The e-mail controversy arose after the disclosure that Scott Jennings, a deputy to Mr. Rove, had used his national committee e-mail account to discuss plans to fire federal prosecutors. The disclosure prompted Democrats to begin an investigation into whether White House officials used their R.N.C. e-mail accounts for official business, to avoid scrutiny or creating a paper trail.

On Thursday, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House committee conducting the inquiry, said he had “particular concerns about Karl Rove” after a briefing his aides received from Mr. Kelner, the R.N.C. lawyer.

Mr. Waxman raised questions about an R.N.C. policy, aimed only at Mr. Rove, that Mr. Waxman said “removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the R.N.C. server.”

In an interview Friday, Mr. Kelner said the committee had indeed adopted such a policy, in January 2006. Mr. Kelner would not say if the Fitzgerald leak inquiry sparked the change, but he said the new policy was aimed simply at preserving Mr. Rove’s e-mails.

“It wasn’t because the R.N.C. thought, uh oh, Karl Rove’s going to destroy e-mails, we have to save them,” Mr. Kelner said. “Absolutely not. That’s exactly the impression Waxman is trying to create. I don’t think there’s any evidence of that.”

At issue is how White House officials complied with two laws: the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires administrations to preserve records of their deliberations and decision-making, and the Hatch Act, which specifies that government equipment may not be used for campaign purposes.

To avoid violating the Hatch Act, the White House permitted employees with political duties to have access to Republican Party equipment. But the administration had no explicit policies on how R.N.C. equipment should be used until this week. . . .
The New York Times, April 14, 2007

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