White House, Sen­a­tors to Con­fer on E-Mail Ex­pert

The Washington Post Sunday - - Politics -

The White House said yes­ter­day that it has ac­cepted the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s pro­posal on how to choose an out­side con­sul­tant to help re­cover lost e-mails in­volv­ing of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial busi­ness.

White House coun­sel Fred F. Field­ing called Sens. Pa­trick J. Leahy (Vt.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) — the top Demo­crat and Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, re­spec­tively — to say that their sug­ges­tion to al­low com­mit­tee in­put on the choice of a con­sul­tant was a good idea, spokes­woman Dana Perino said.

White House and com­mit­tee staffers plan to meet early this week to move for­ward, she said.

The White House ac­knowl­edged last week that aides to Pres­i­dent Bush im­prop­erly used e-mail ac­counts cre­ated by the Repub­li­can Party to con­duct of­fi­cial White House busi­ness, and that an un­de­ter­mined num­ber of those e-mails have been lost.

Perino said Fri­day that she could not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that up to 5 mil­lion e-mails were miss­ing.

Democrats have pledged to in­ves­ti­gate wheth- er the e-mails were de­lib­er­ately fun­neled through the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s sys­tem, in­stead of the White House’s, and then deleted in or­der to shield sen­si­tive mat­ters. They say this could vi­o­late a law that re­quires the preser­va­tion, and even­tual dis­clo­sure, of pres­i­den­tial records.

The e-mails were dis­cov­ered to be miss­ing dur­ing a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fir­ing of eight fed­eral prose­cu­tors.

White House of­fi­cials said the im­proper use of the ac­counts and the loss of the e-mails ap­peared to be hon­est mis­takes. They are try­ing to re­cover the miss­ing e-mails and are clar­i­fy­ing pol­icy on pre­serv­ing records.

Sep­a­rate ac­counts were cre­ated for about 50 White House aides in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion who get in­volved in party pol­i­tics. The in­tent is to avoid vi­o­la­tions of rules that bar fed­eral em­ploy­ees from us­ing gov­ern­ment re­sources for po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

Sens. Pa­trick J. Leahy, left, and Arlen Specter pro­posed that the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee have a voice in se­lect­ing a con­sul­tant.

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