White House e-mail scrap simmers

As the missing White House e-mails are "reconstructed," those who hoped

to discover incriminating evidence of fund-raising malfeasance have had

to settle for something less.

By Rep. Harry Waxman's count, 130,000 of 150,000 missing e-mail messages

have been recovered and reviewed. But "only 55 have any relevance" to the

House Government Reform Committee 's investigation of fund-raising improprieties,

Waxman said during a hearing Tuesday.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) quoted one such e-mail message, sent by a vice

presidential aide: "I do not remember asking, but I may have. These are

FR coffees, right?"

"That FR doesn't stand for French roast," Burton, the committee chairman,

declared. "Of course not. It means fund-raising coffees. And the president

and vice president said the coffees weren't fund-raisers."

Waxman (D-Calif.) dismissed Burton's conclusion as another in a series

of "wild allegations" by committee Republicans determined to prove that

the Clinton administration is corrupt.

Republicans are suspicious about the contents of tens of thousands of

White House e-mail messages that were not saved by an automatic archiving

system and thus were not turned over when subpoenaed by congressional investigators

during President Clinton's impeachment.

On Tuesday, Burton and Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), pummeled Deputy

Assistant Attorney General Alan Gershel for Attorney General Janet Reno's

decision not to launch a separate investigation into the e-mail case.

Gershel repeatedly refused to answer such basic questions as how many

Justice Department attorneys have been assigned to the e-mail case, which

he supervises.

And he also ducked questions about the missing White House e-mail messages,

which are being recovered from backup tapes. "It would be inappropriate

for me to comment on the evidence-gathering process associated with that

investigation," Gershel said.

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