White House e-mail records missing: House Oversight Committee

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Oversight Committee [official website] said Monday that e-mail records for 51 of 88 White House officials being investigated [interim report, PDF] for potential Presidential Records Act (PRA) violations were missing [press release], finding that there have been "extensive destruction" of e-mail records of officials who used accounts issued by the Republican National Committee (RNC). The Oversight Committee found that the White House heavily relied upon RNC e-mail accounts to circumvent the PRA, which requires the preservation of presidential records on all "activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties."

The committee also found that more than 88 White House officials were issued RNC e-mails, contradicting claims by the White House in March that only a "handful of officials" used RNC e-mail accounts, though White House spokesperson Dana Perino subsequently said that as many as 50 officials used the accounts. The committee said that it will seek to recover the lost records from federal agencies that were often the recipients of the e-mails, and will seek to expand the investigation into whether former White House Counsel and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [JURIST news archive] was aware of the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House officials and if Gonzales took steps to preserve the RNC e-mail records pursuant to the PRA. In April, US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] blasted the White House [JURIST report] for failing to turn over all documents, including "lost" e-mails, requested by the Judiciary Committee in its investigation into the controversial firings of at least eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archive]. The White House has said that the RNC e-mail accounts were used to avoid violating the Hatch Act [backgrounder], which prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes. AP has more.

 

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