18 Minutes, 18 Days, 18 Months

6 comments April 12th, 2007at 11:07pm Posted by Eli

A pair of very interesting missing e-mail stories back-to-back in TPMmuckraker today. First, the WH e-mail system:

From Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

In a startling new revelation, CREW has also learned through two confidential sources that the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has lost over five million emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005. The White House counsel’s office was advised of these problems in 2005 and CREW has been told that the White House was given a plan of action to recover these emails, but to date nothing has been done to rectify this significant loss of records.


When I spoke to CREW’s Naomi Seligman Steiner, she could only say that the missing emails were generated over a period of “hundreds of days within that two year period.” Furthermore, it’s not clear whose emails they are, or why those emails are missing as opposed to others. “We’re dealing with people who are only willing to tell us so much,” she said.

And the RNC system:

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked that the Justice Department retain all emails received or sent to a White House official’s RNC-issued email address.

…[T]here are some very tantalizing details concerning Karl Rove…

From the letter:

According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a “document retention” policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Mr. Kelner said that as a result of unspecified legal inquiries, a “hold” was placed on this e-mail destruction policy for the accounts of White House officials in August 2004. Mr. Kelner was uncertain whether the hold was consistently maintained from August 2004 to the present, but he asserted that for this period, the RNC does have a large volume of White House e-mails. According to Mr. Kelner, the hold would not have prevented individual White House officials from deleting their e-mail from the RNC server after August 2004.Mr. Kelner’s briefing raised particular concems about Karl Rove, who according to press reports used his RNC accountfor 95% of his communications. According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove’s account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.

Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove’s emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns. It was unclear from Mr. Kelner’s briefing whether the special archiving policy for Mr. Rove was consistently in effect after 2005. [TPMmuck emphasis]

So, this gives us a timeframe from March 2003 to August 2004 where any incriminating e-mails of interest from White House staffers could easily be missing from both WH and RNC servers, with that “blackout” timeframe extended out to “some point in 2005” (October?) for Karl Rove. In fact, if all the WH staffers were industrious about deleting the most sensitive RNC-mails, this timeframe could effectively extend all the way to up to October 2005. Prior to this timeframe, it can be assumed that all WH e-mails should be available, and that all RNC-mails would be unavailable. After this timeframe, it can be assumed that all WH and Rove RNC-mails should be available, but there are absolutely no guarantees about the RNC-mails of any other staffers.

So, what does this timeframe cover? Just off the top of my head, it would cover the start of the Iraq war, the Plame leak and coverup, the 2004 election, most or all of the Abramoff and Cunningham investigations, and even Hurricane Katrina, if we assume that everyone was manually deleting their incriminating RNC-mails. On the positive side, this gap would not include any conversations about the Wilkes-Foggo investigation or the US Attorney firings – or any segue between them, i.e., any possible “We have to get rid of Lam before she takes down any more of our guys” e-mails, unless Rove stayed out of them.

Also on the positive side is the fact that there is absolutely no technical excuse not to produce any Rove e-mails from October 2005 on, so any directives or feedback he might have given about which USAs to fire and why should be available, whether he used WH or RNC e-mail systems. If the WH or RNC say they cannot produce them, then they are essentially admitting to a coverup.

On the other hand, if Rove was aware that his e-mails were being archived (it’s unclear whether he knew this, or if he was ineffectually deleting away, thinking he was untouchable – it’s hard to imagine the RNC wouldn’t warn him, though), there’s a good chance that he would save his most sensitive communications for the phone, or route them through a trusted aide (Jennings?) whose e-mails were not being archived.

My first thought was that Rove is so arrogant that he wouldn’t have taken such precautions until after the 2006 election proved “the math” wrong and ushered in The Age Of Oversight, but if that were the case he wouldn’t have been deleting all his e-mails in the first place. Bottom line: It’s entirely conceivable that there are simply no incriminating Rove e-mails available, and no way to bust him for circumventing even the off-the-books e-mail system… unless someone squeals.

Finally, here’s the question that keeps nagging at me: Let’s suppose, just hypothetically, that the Bush White House and the RNC are completely unethical. I know, I know, but bear with me. Now suppose that they hand over most of their e-mails in response to the subpoena, and claim that they’ve complied fully – would the Democrats be able to tell? I know a lot of them are former prosecutors, and I bet a lot of their staffers are, too (to say nothing of the Blogger Street Irregulars) – and Fitz has demonstrated just how much a good prosecutor can find out, even in the face of a coverup. Maybe they can spot the contour of an empty space where an e-mail chain should be, or a reference to a missing e-mail in another e-mail, or in someone’s testimony, and then… what? Who gets busted? Will they have a fall guy like Libby again, maybe some Regents grad willing to take one for Team Jesus?

I really want to believe that the truth will come out, but I know the Bushies can afford to let it. At the very least, I’m hoping that, like Nixon’s missing 18 minutes, the evidence of criminal obstruction will be so obvious and unspinnable that it makes the Republican Party radioactive for the next thirty years. But I’m sure that’s what we were saying in 1974, too. (Well, I was probably saying something like, “Ooo, pwetty truck!”, but you know what I mean.)

UPDATE: Just noticed this over at FDL. These are the kinds of things that don’t register on you when you’re not a prosecutor, and kinda brain-dead to boot:

[M]ay I just say for the record that if Mr. Rove knew that his e-mails were to be preserved due to a pending criminal investigation and deleted them anyway in an effort to keep them from being viewed in discovery under a valid request from, say, a certain tall special prosecutor whose name might be Fitzgerald – well, that could be construed in a whole lot of places as obstruction of justice.

Mwahahaha… This would, of course, also apply to any of his minions who might be deleting their e-mails as well.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Favorites,Iraq,Libby/Plame,Politics,Republicans,Rove,Technology


  • 1. charley  |  April 12th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    i was saying “fuck, i hope this war ends soon so i don’t have to go to vietnam.” lucky me.

    then i got to watch the fall out for the next 30 years.

    well, at least now i know what a neocon is, and i’m too old for iraq, even with the extended age cutoff.

  • 2. Eli  |  April 12th, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    That’s what I was saying about Gulf War I. Fortunately, that one *did*.

  • 3. PoliShifter  |  April 13th, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Well what do you know…Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rove DID learn from Watergate….

    It’s OK as long as you don’t get caught…

    Bush is lucky he’s got these bastards. He’s too stupid to cover anything up.

    In fact if I were Waxman I would subpoena anything computer and internets related that Bush has (if this is even possible I don’t know).

    My point is Bush strikes me as the type of person that would save vindictive, incriminating emails for future use and be too stupid enough to realize he’d better delete them…even those funny ones Rove sent him…

  • 4. Eli  |  April 13th, 2007 at 12:45 am

    My point is Bush strikes me as the type of person that would save vindictive, incriminating emails for future use and be too stupid enough to realize he’d better delete them…even those funny ones Rove sent him…

    If he used e-mail, that is. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even have a computer.

  • 5. virgotex  |  April 13th, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Let’s suppose, just hypothetically, that the Bush White House and the RNC are completely unethical.


  • 6. Eli  |  April 13th, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Just tryin’ to be provocative.

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