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White House Aides Tried to Hide E-mails, Lawmaker Charges
ABC News Blog
Brian Ross
March 26, 2007

White House staff are using non-governmental e-mail addresses to avoid leaving a paper trail of their communications, a senior congressman charged Monday.

In a pair of letters Monday, House Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, D.-Calif., asked the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign to preserve e-mails sent and received by White House officials using domains controlled by the two groups.

Waxman also asked the two to meet with his staff to explain how they handle e-mail accounts for government officials.

"Such e-mails written in the conduct of White House business would appear to be governmental records subject to preservation and eventual public disclosure," Waxman wrote.

The use of e-mail addresses from domains like "gwb43.com" by White House aides surfaced in the news earlier this month when the Justice Department released hundreds of e-mails between political appointees discussing the firing of several U.S. attorneys. E-mails from Scott Jennings, a deputy to White House political adviser Karl Rove, came from an address featuring the gwb43.com domain.

But Waxman also pointed to e-mails his committee received last year in connection to convicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, which show White House aides sending and receiving work-related e-mails from domains like "georgewbush.com" and "rnchq.org".

E-mail conversations uncovered by Waxman's investigators suggest that some White House staff and outsiders believed such e-mail, which evaded official ".gov" systems, could be kept private.

"...[I]t is better not to put this stuff in writing in their e-mail system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us," one lobbyist wrote Abramoff, citing advice from a White House aide, "especially since there could be lawsuits, etc."

An RNC spokesman declined to comment, saying the organization had not yet had a chance to review the letter.  The White House and former Bush-Cheney '04 campaign chairman Marc Racicot did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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