Henry Says: Give Us the Emails

Hey, whose job was it to tell Henry Waxman that he’s supposed to be on recess this week? Because he’s still churning out letters, closing in on Republican chicanery. This one is, ostensibly, a request to the head of the RNC, Mike Duncan, for any emails relating to the political "team building" events Karl Rove has been doing on the public dime (no link yet–will update with it later):

I am writing to request e-mail communications stored on Republican National Committee servers that relate to the use of federal agencies and federal resources for partisan political purposes.

Last week, the Committee held a hearing into allegations of misconduct at the General Services Administration. One of the issues examined at the hearing involved a partisan political presentation that White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs, J. Scott Jennings, made to the GSA Administrator, Lurita A. Doan, and approximately 40 GSA appointees in the GSA headquarters building on January 26, 2007.

[snip]

In  communicating with GSA about the presentation, Mr. Jennings and his assistant used "gwb43.com" e-mail accounts maintained by the RNC rather than their official White House e-mail accounts. In their e-mails, they described the presentation as a "close hold" and said that "we’re not supposed to be emailing it around."

But this is a somewhat broadly written request. Look at how Waxman asks for the actual emails:

To assist the Committee in its investigation of these issues, I request that you provide any electronic messages sent or received by Karl Rove, J. Scott Jennings, or any other White House officials using accounts maintained by the RNC that relate to (1) the January 26, 2007, PowerPoint presentation at GSA, (2) the presentation of any similar political briefings at other federal agencies or to other federal employees, or (3) the use of federal agencies or resources to help Republican candidates.

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  1. P J Evans says:

    Henry has something in mind as his target. Something big, something that the RNC can’t hide without effectively shutting down their network and losing, what, six years worth of e-mail?

    Rove, certainly. Maybe Cheney. Would anyone in either house of Congress have one of those e-mails that they’ve been using for official business?

  2. rex applegate says:

    ew

    obviously, the RNC will not turn these e-mails over based on a request. what legal options does Waxman have to force their submittal?

  3. Jeff says:

    Since I am in MSM-defense mode at the moment, may I just recall an infamous LAT piece by Tom Hamburger discussed here, and what I had to say about it at the time, in explanation and defense of the point of the piece? Sound familiar?

  4. Anonymous says:

    PJ

    Yeah, keep in mind they’re interviewing this week, and Ralston, if she chooses to appear, is scheduled for tomorrow. So it is likely they have real evidence stacked up–they already had it when they first wrote to BushCo about this. But something made them decide to go forward with this letter.

    rex

    Well, Waxman DOES have subpoena power.

    Jeff

    I’m at a loss to understand your point. That’s not a post I wrote, and I don’t see why this post even merits your comments about the MSM. Care to explain?

  5. Jeff says:

    emptywheel

    Not a complaint about you. Point is, the LAT was reporting on Rove’s blatant inappropriate and possibly illegal use of goervnment resources for electoral purposes shortly before the election; and the LAT got roundly slammed for being in Rove’s pocket at the time.

  6. greenhouse says:

    Jeff, wrong topic. Keep it with â€The WaPo’s A1 Snooze†and ask EW to take a look. Why subjugate the rest of us to your warpath selfrighteous sticking up for the msm.

  7. Beaneater says:

    It’s always nice to be reminded that we have been paying to be abused by the Bush mafia ever since it captured the presidency. Rove gets to play the arrogant outlaw on our dime, enjoying all the unfair advantages of an irrevocable security clearance.

  8. Mimikatz says:

    There’s a fine line here. Admins have always tried top parlay federal largesse into votes–that’s the whole point of pork. But there is supposed to be a line between the campaign and the gov’t, and between the civil service and the political people. The Bushies have not just blurred that line, they have obliterated it. So they are using this to get at the explicit use of federal personnel to advance the Republican Party. I think this pretty straightforwardly follows from the testimony of the GSA head (Lurita Doan) people last week.

    I’m interested in the article Jeff cited because of Rove’s cockiness. What more is there that didn’t quite work? That’s what they’re digging for.

  9. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Waxman is right on the case here. One of the more notable aspects of the most recent document dumps is the lack of any emails originating from non-.gov addresses: we only see them as includes in replies to those addresses or forwards to other addresses.

    If Ralston shows up, she’s going to be asked about the backchannel. A lot. Waxman just finished dealing with the executive order on presidential records, and I get the sense that he regards the integrity of the archive as a Big Deal.

    And there’s a reason not to recess. Time is of the essence if hard drives are being sent through an electromagnet.

    Waxman has just enough material to prove that a blanket ’we got nuttin’ from the RNC is either a lie or a crime. I hope he has people on his staff smart enough to analyse email headers and message IDs, because it may turn out to be the biggest email forensics case in govt. history.

    what legal options does Waxman have to force their submittal?

    I think he can argue that the servers hold ’presidential records’ as defined by the 1978 Act and that, as such, the RNC is withholding the property of the United States. Now, it might be litigable, but it’s not for the RNC to decide, on its own, what constitutes a presidential record.

  10. Flamethrower says:

    The other side of this coin is if Rove is doing purely – or mostly political work – why in the hell is he on the public payroll?

  11. marksb says:

    And remember what a number of folks have pointed out: these emails are hard to eliminate once sent—they are on any number of servers both host and client. So even if certain hard drives are sent through the big electromagnet, just a few surviving examples will send someone to prison for destroying evidence (and make the GOP/WH look even more shitty, if that’s possible.)

    As pseudonymous says, the biggest email forensics case in govt. history. Popcorn anyone?

  12. looseheadprop says:

    If the RNC does not cooperate, Waxman can subpeona.

    If RNC does not cooperate they as a corporate entity would fall afoul of the standards in the now defunct â€thompson memo†for deciding whether to indict and prosecute a corporate entity.

    Even under it’s very waterdown sucessor, the organization as organization could land itself incriminal hot water if they tried to do something really insane.

    Presumably cooler Rep. heads will prevail and want to preserve the party as an institution. The best way to do that (if you tink Sarbanes-Oxley principles have broader applications) is to weed out the few bad apples/turdblossoms and cooperate fully in getting those bad appples convicted.

    I’m overstating a bit to make a my point b/c I believe this is meant to trigger a response from grownups in the Rep. Party

  13. pseudonymous in nc says:

    It’s also worth noting that, as far as I can tell, the smarttech SMTP servers don’t use SSL or TLS or any form of encrypted transmission protocol. And I’m pretty sure that the loyal Bushies aren’t using PGP.

    That’s not just a violation of the PRA. It’s a potential security breach on a massive scale.

  14. John Casper says:

    â€It’s a potential security breach on a massive scale.â€

    Bullseye as per usual. This was exactly what the GOP hammered Clinton about for communicating with Monica over unsecured lines. The content of their conversations didn’t matter to the GOP back then, it opened the Executive branch up to â€potential†blackmail. That in itself is a huge national security risk.

  15. tomj says:

    I question the legality of the owners of the gwb43.com server to read user email for any reason, or their ability to determine if the content is within scope. Any analysis of this question anywhere?

  16. Rayne says:

    Wow, Marcy, you came back from your weekend away with guns ablazing!! What DID you do while you were away? (Heh. Purely rhetorical question – do not respond.)

    tomj 16:36 — Waxman’s letter was to the RNC, which is the owner of the gwb43.com domain and all emails processed through that domain. There is no question about the server owner/ISP and the legality of their â€reading†any mail for this reason. Further, Waxman’s letter to the RNC covers ALL emails that would have been sent from any domain owned by the RNC that meet the three criteria Waxman specified.

    And Waxman already has access to information to validate emails that the RNC furnishes; if they don’t cough them all up, RNC gets slapped with a subpoena (perhaps more than one) and a possible obstruction charge. Yeah, where is that popcorn? I better start popping a mess of it.

  17. tomj says:

    Rayne,

    I think I finally got it. The emails themselves are evidence of some crime or near Hatch Act violation, depending on the argument being used by the Administration:

    Either this is unofficial political business with government actors (Hatch Act), or

    Official business conducted outside record-keeping guidelines (maybe some crime?)

    Maybe that is why Ralston was careful to say these meetings were brown bag affairs conducted during a lunch break?

  18. Anonymous says:

    ooops, my bad. That link, while interesting, is not actually the link I meant to give you.

    This one is ok too, but also not it: http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/03/26/sunshine-2/

    the link to the national archives page is here:
    http://www.archives.gov/presid…..8-act.html

    and I can’t for the life of me find the post I’m looking for. I thought LHP had a nice post up discussing exactly this issue at FDL, and I can’t find it now.

    *grrrr* stupid intertubes.

  19. Anonymous says:

    smiley, thanks for the link anyway. I try to keep up over at FDL but had missed that one so you made my day.

  20. pollyusa says:

    Why subjugate the rest of us to your warpath selfrighteous sticking up for the msm.

    Unbelievable.