Friday, April 13, 2007

Scandal roundup

Where to begin?

In the prosecutor probe, the Justice Department released hundreds of documents that Congress had been seeking, forestalling a possible legal standoff. Only partly mollfied, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for documents and testimony from Justice's William Moschella and Karl Rove aide Scott Jennings.

Meanwhile, new revelations abound in the e-mail probe. The White House, after first saying lots of e-mails may have been deleted, now says some of them could have been related to the prosecutor firings.

Then it turns out that the RNC stopped automatically deleting e-mails by White House officials in 2004, and in 2005 specifically took away Karl Rove's ability to delete e-mails. Breaking it down, that means:

1. Four years worth of e-mails (2001-2004) are gone (unless there were backups and forensic examination can recover them).

2. After 2004, the only way e-mails would have been deleted is if the officials themselves specifically deleted them.

3. After 2005, there should be a complete record of Rove's e-mails. So if they're missing, something's not right.

Amid it all, the White House not only continues to refuse Congressional requests to question Rove and several key aides. It is expanding its "executive privilege" authority to include the RNC e-mails, and has the chutzpah to try to use the e-mail scandal as leverage:

Now that Democrats are also demanding access to the political e-mail, the White House took steps on Thursday to use those latest demands as leverage to force Democrats to accept the White House’s conditions for making Mr. Rove and the others available.

In a letter to Mr. Leahy and Representative John Conyers Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Fielding, the White House counsel, said the administration was prepared to produce e-mail from the national committee, but only as part of a “carefully and thoughtfully considered package of accommodations” — in other words, only as part of the offer for Mr. Rove and the others to appear in private.

Mr. Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, issued a tart reply: “The White House position seems to be that executive privilege not only applies in the Oval Office, but to the R.N.C. as well. There is absolutely no basis in law or fact for such a claim.”

Somehow, I don't think that will work. The more revelations emerge, the more the White House refusal to allow questioning looks like a desire to hide something rather than a principled stand on Constitutional issues.

Up until the latest revelations, the White House had at least a wobbly leg to stand on. No longer. The more they delay and obstruct and refuse to cooperate, the worse it's going to be for them and the more political hay Democrats will make. It'll be interesting how far Bush is willing to push a losing hand -- and how much patience Congressional Republicans will have with him doing so.

Update: a make-you-think post from Glenn Greenwald noting the peculiar history of missing and deleted documents in the Bush administration.

Okay, the federal government is a big place. And the missing documents involve all sorts of different agencies and levels of that government. And if the government were truly competent, things they claimed were destroyed would not surface later -- they would actually be destroyed.

Still, there's a pattern here. And if it's not deception, then its incompetence and a massive credibility problem.

Update II: Rove's lawyer says Rove did not intentionally delete his own e-mails, and believed they were being preserved.

Separately, the newly released Justice documents appear to contradict some of Kyle Sampson's Senate testimony.

The documents show that beginning in a January 2006 e-mail to White House Counsel Harriet Miers, Sampson proposed some of the administration's most senior lawyers to replace U.S. attorneys in San Diego, San Francisco, Michigan and Arkansas.

But he told Congress something else:

"On December 7th [2007], I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign," Sampson said then, under questioning from Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y.

Now, we could be talking about the difference between having replacements in mind and having them actually lined up. But Sampson's testimony was still a bit misleading.

And another document showed that among the criteria used for ranking prosecutors was whether they were members of the conservative Federalist Society. Only one fired prosecutor was a member: Kevin Ryan, who everyone seems to agree was fired for cause.

Finally, the White House floated the possibility that as many as 5 million e-mails may have been lost when the White House converted from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook in 2001 and 2002.

Deliberate? Maybe not. Hugely, mind-bogglingly inexcusable? Yes.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you're actually trying to make a case that e-mails that may have been lost during a conversion in 2001 and 2002 is somehow "deliberate" and "mind-boggling" and has something to do with this latest investigation???? Hmmm....before Gonzales, before the Attorney firings, before any of this???

Good Lord. Dems continue to prove there is no end to this witch hunt.

JP5

4/13/2007 6:44 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Um, note where I said "Deliberate? Maybe not." And nowhere did I tie it to the prosecutor scandal.

It's inexcusable because losing 5 million e-mails isn't a minor thing, an easy mistake, a slip of the delete key. From a records preservation point of view, it's a disaster.

4/13/2007 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then I guess it was at least equally as inexcusable when the Clinton administration lost millions of e-mails as well? Remember the "computer glitch" excuse? Did YOU buy it?

JP5

4/17/2007 1:36 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Ah, another "Clinton did it too!" response. Tell me, if Clinton did it, does that make it okay? I thought Republicans wanted to establish a higher standard of behavior.

If you're referring to what I think you are, it involved maybe 100,000 e-mails, not millions and it relied heavily on the testimony of a single contractor. One reason it got heavy play only in such credible sources as WND and Insight magazine.

But let's say it's true. Losing 100,000 e-mails is bad. Losing 5 million is a lot worse.

4/17/2007 8:04 AM  

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