- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

A top Senate Democrat yesterday accused the White House of lying about whether e-mails requested as part of Congress’ investigation of the firing of federal prosecutors have been permanently lost.

“They say they have not been preserved. I don’t believe that,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “You can’t erase e-mails, not today. They’ve gone through too many servers.”

Mr. Leahy threatened to use the subpoena authority his committee gave him yesterday on Bush administration officials, as well as for all documents at the White House and Justice Department related to the eight fired prosecutors.

The White House said it’s searching for the e-mails and will turn them over to Congress if and when they are found.

“I don’t know if Senator Leahy is also an [internet technology] expert, but I can assure you that we are working very hard to make sure that we find the e-mails that were potentially lost,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

“We’re being very honest and forthcoming … We have come forward and tried to explain how we screwed up our policy and how we’re working to fix it.”

The e-mails were sent using unofficial, outside e-mail accounts hosted by the Republican National Committee. These outside accounts have been used by about 50 Bush administration officials since 2001 to avoid violating the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act restricts government officials from conducting political activity in their official government capacities or with government resources.

Yesterday, the White House came under increasing scrutiny for why White House staff would have intentionally deleted e-mails from their RNC accounts.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said that White House staff used their RNC accounts out of “an abundance of caution” to avoid violating the Hatch Act, because many times it is not clear whether an e-mail is official, or political, or a little of both.

However, if White House staffers deleted e-mails from their RNC accounts that fell into that gray area, the same “abundance of caution” was not used to avoid violating the Presidential Records Act of 1978, Democrats charged.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said the issue raises “serious concerns about the White House’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act,” in a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

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