After three congressional investigations – the investigation into Jack Abramoff’s contacts with the White House, the examination of politicization of the General Services Administration, and the investigation of the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys – brought to light the White House’s extensive use of nongovernmental e-mail accounts to conduct official business, the Committee directed the RNC and the Bush Cheney ’04 campaign to preserve e-mails to or from accounts held by White House officials.
In order to ensure compliance with both the Presidential Records Act and the Hatch Act, the Committee asked the RNC to produce e-mails that related to the use of federal agencies and federal resources for partisan political purposes.
Following staff briefings with the White House and the RNC, the Committee has reason to believe that many e-mails related to official government business may have been deleted from the RNC’s servers. As a secondary measure to obtain these e-mails, the Committee asked federal agencies to preserve any e-mails they received from or sent to these political accounts.
In response to Committee investigations showing the loss and destruction of White House e-mails, the House on July 9, 2008, passed reform legislation requiring the Archivist to issue standards ensuring the preservation of White House e-mails. In addition, the White House responded to the Committee’s investigation with its own reforms that may reduce the use of political e-mail accounts for official business.
By a vote of 286-137, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5811, the Electronic Communications Preservation Act, which would modernize the requirements of the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act to ensure that vital electronic records are preserved.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay, and Rep. Paul W. Hodes released a new GAO report that finds that senior federal officials are failing to comply with requirements to preserve e-mail records. On Wednesday, the House is expected to consider legislation (H.R. 5811) to modernize the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act to ensure the preservation of these important federal records.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay, and Rep. Paul W. Hodes introduced legislation to modernize the requirements of the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act and ensure that crucial records are preserved for historians.
Chairman Waxman wrote to request information from the White House Office of Administration about reports that millions of e-mails that may have been lost from the White House e-mail system.
Chairman Waxman releases a report detailing the use of RNC political e-mail accounts by 88 White House officials. Senior advisor Karl Rove sent and received at least 140,216 e-mails on his RNC e-mail account, more than any other White House official, including over 75,000 e-mails communicating with individuals using official ”.gov” e-mail accounts. Deposition testimony from Susan Ralston, Mr. Rove’s former executive assistant, provides evidence that the White House Counsel’s office may have known in 2001 that Mr. Rove was using his RNC e-mail account for official correspondence but took no action to preserve these official communications.
In light of new information that between 8 and 12 White House officials had e-mail accounts provided to them by the Bush Cheney ’04 campaign, Chairman Waxman writes to the campaign’s attorneys requesting basic information about the use of these accounts. He also requests copies of e-mails related to the use of federal agencies and federal resources for partisan political purposes.
After the Committee voted to issue a subpoena to Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan, Chairman Waxman sends a letter to Mr. Duncan describing the subjects the Committee expects him to address during the hearing regarding the scope of the potential violations of the Presidential Records Act caused by the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House officials for official communications. In addition, Chairman Waxman reiterates his offer to consider ways in which the RNC could provide the information in a way that would not require Mr. Duncan's testimony.
Chairman Waxman informs the RNC that the Oversight Committee will meet on April 25 to consider a subpoena for documents relating to possible violation of the Presidential Records Act and the Hatch Act by White House officials.
In a letter to the Republican National Committee, Chairman Waxman states that it is unacceptable that — after three letters from the Committee — the RNC has provided only minimal information regarding White House officials’ use of RNC e-mail accounts. In response to the RNC’s proposal to limit the Committee’s request for e-mail, Chairman Waxman requests basic facts about the scope and nature of the emails sent using these accounts before he assesses whether such limitations are required.
After the RNC informed the Oversight Committee that they will not be able to produce the e-mails requested by an April 18 deadline, Chairman Waxman requests that the RNC provide a timeline for producing the requested documents. He also asks what steps the RNC has taken to preserve and produce the emails, and which White House officials were provided with RNC email accounts.
Following briefings from the White House and Republican National Committee that revealed an extensive volume of e-mails regarding official government business may have been destroyed by the RNC, Chairman Waxman directs government agencies to preserve e-mails received from or sent to non-governmental e-mail accounts used by White House staffers. The Committee also requests that government agencies provide an inventory of all e-mails involving these accounts.
Rep. Waxman requests copies of e-mails related to the use of federal agencies and federal resources for partisan political purposes.
Following new revelations that White House officials have been conducting official business using nongovernmental e-mail accounts, Chairman Waxman asks White House Counsel Fred Fielding for information and a briefing regarding White House e-mail policies.
Citing evidence that senior White House officials are using RNC and other political email accounts to avoid leaving a record of official communications, Chairman Waxman directs the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 Campaign to preserve the emails of White House officials and to meet with Committee staff to explain how the accounts are managed and what steps are being taken to protect the emails from destruction and tampering.
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