Davis: Report on unsaved e-mail 'prejudges'

Investigation Of Possible Presidential Records Act Violations (.pdf)

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The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s interim report alleging that White House officials may have broken the law by not preserving official communications from nongovernment e-mail addresses “overreaches and prejudges,” the committee's ranking Republican said.

In a statement, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who was the committee's chairman before Democrats took control of the House earlier this year, also said the committee’s findings were premature, partisan and “struck against many of the fundamental principles” he teaches his staff.

“Instead of going carefully through the evidence and arriving at well-supported conclusions, the Democrats missed the mark with [the] report,” he said.

The interim report is the result of an ongoing investigation into whether Bush administration officials violated the Presidential Records Act by using Republican National Committee (RNC) and Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign e-mail addresses for official communications. The RNC and campaign did not preserve many of the communications.

The act mandates that the executive branch “take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented."

The interim report, released June 18 by the committee, now chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) states that at least 88 White House officials had RNC accounts, a far greater number than the Bush administration originally said. Furthermore, the RNC preserved e-mail messages for only 37 of the 88 administration officials who had RNC accounts, according to the congressional committee. A deposition from a former executive assistant to Karl Rove, President Bush’s deputy chief of staff, suggests that the RNC destroyed them.

“We see the words ‘may have’ eight times in a 12-page report,’ Davis said. “We see Karl Rove mentioned 42 times. We see Attorney General Alberto Gonzales dragged into this matter without any foundation whatsoever. Everything about this report overreaches and prejudges.”

Eleven officials were provided Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign accounts, but only six have been identified, the report adds. The campaign has thus far “unjustifiably refused” to provide the committee with basic information of these accounts, according to the report.

Davis said the report failed to take into account the “good faith efforts of the Republican National Committee and the White House to provide information, briefings and documents.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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