White House E-mail Furor Rages

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread



Tuesday May 2 1:30 AM ET

White House E-mail Furor Rages

By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is suggesting it may invoke executive privilege to prevent Congress from seeing some documents in the controversy over missing e-mails that are being sought by investigators looking into a range of matters from Whitewater to campaign fund-raising.

The White House has sent the House Government Reform Committee a one-page list of documents it is not immediately turning over to investigators because they are considered covered by executive privilege and attorney-client confidentiality.

Among the documents on the list, which was obtained Monday by The Associated Press, are handwritten notes by White House lawyers involving discussions they had with computer experts about the e-mails.

The list says the notes ``reflect mental impressions'' of the lawyers for the White House Office of Administration, which oversaw the computer system that, because of a technical glitch, was not properly archiving e-mails so they could be searched for possible turnover to various investigations.

Independent Counsel Robert Ray, the Justice Department and Congress are all investigating whether the White House's failure to promptly recover e-mails and check them for compliance with a number of subpoenas after the glitch was discovered in 1998 was part of an effort to obstruct the investigations that have dogged the Clinton White House.

The privilege list is the first step in the executive privilege process. In past investigations ranging from impeachment to Puerto Rican terrorists, the White House has sometimes relented and turned over documents and in other cases invoked the privileges to shield memos.

Executive privilege, which became famous a quarter century ago during the battle for Richard Nixon's audio tapes in the Watergate scandal, refers to the right of a president to keep confidential the advice he receives from aides on official matters.

The White House's latest maneuver prompted an angry reply from the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee

``The White House is obstructing the investigation,'' Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said in a letter to the White House counsel's office. ``This meaningless legal mumbo-jumbo is obviously a transparent ploy to provoke wasteful and time-consuming squabbles over documents.''

White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said presidential lawyers ``would like to reach an accommodation with the committee to provide them with what they legitimately need in a way that doesn't interfere with our ability to do our job.

``We have already turned over a lot of material to Mr. Burton,'' Kennedy said. ``What he is seeking is not historical information about the origins of this problem but current information generated only as a result of his inquiry.''

Burton's committee plans to hold hearings on the e-mails Wednesday and Thursday. Among the witnesses lawmakers planned to question was Karl Heissner, a White House aide who worked in the Office of Administration.

The AP reported Monday that Heissner wrote a memo divulging that presidential aides prepared to notify Congress as early as February 1999 about the e-mail glitch and to begin retrieving thousands of unarchived messages that might be relevant to investigators. Instead, the White House waited another year before taking action.

Heissner's memo also suggests he was reluctant to tell Congress about the status of official document requests to the White House because he believed such requests from investigators were declining. ``Let sleeping dogs lie,'' he wrote.

White House officials blame a ``disconnect'' between their technicians, who diagnosed the e-mail problem, and their lawyers, who apparently did not understand that the glitch might affect pending subpoena requests.

The investigations, meanwhile, pressed forward.

Ray's prosecutors plan to interview one of the White House contractors involved in the discovery of the problem, Betty Lambuth, according to Judicial Watch, the conservative legal group that is representing her. Lambuth has alleged she was threatened by White House officials not to divulge the problem.

-- (AP@news.article), May 02, 2000


If the White House starts this kind of monkey business again, Al Gore can kiss his lying ass goodbye.

-- Peter Errington (petere@ricochet.net), May 02, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ