The furore over the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors has uncovered mass-use of non government email accounts by the White House.
It has also been revealed, and confirmed by the White House, that these accounts are paid for by the Republican National Committee.
By using private accounts government business is being routinely conducted without the necessity of communications having to be disclosed in official forums, or in response to FOI applications.
The U.S. Senate was told Thursday the White House was now saying emails received and sent through these accounts are not being preserved. Crucial emails relating to the firing of the attorneys, the White House says, are "lost."
"Now we are learning that the 'off book' communications they were having about these actions, by using Republican political email addresses, have not been preserved," Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Chairman, Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor on Thursday. "Like the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes, it appears likely that key documentation has been erased or misplaced."
"This sounds like the Administration’s version of the dog ate my homework," said Leahy.
"I am deeply disturbed that just when this Administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight, it cannot produce the necessary information. This Administration has worn out the benefit of the doubt and undermined whatever credibility it had left," he addd.
Scott Stanzel, speaking on behalf of the White House, conceded that 22 White House aides have email accounts paid for by the RNC, and that emails relating to those accounts "may have been lost." Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, and a number of his assistants are included among those with RNC accounts.
Late Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized the issue of subpoenas for documents from the White House and the Department of Justice relating to the panel’s ongoing investigation into the mass firings and replacements of eight prosecutors last year.
“We continue to seek cooperation from the Administration as we try to get to the bottom of an apparent abuse of power that has allowed politics to corrupt federal law enforcement,” said Leahy. “There remain several obstacles to the ability of the investigating committees to learn the truth about what occurred with these firings and why. The selectivity and incompleteness of the highly redacted set of documents we have received so far from the Department of Justice present one set of obstacles.”
“The refusal of the White House to provide relevant documents and access to White House staff who played a role in these firings and replacements are other obstacles. The announcement by the White House last night that they and the Republican National Committee have lost an undisclosed number of relevant emails that political operatives were using on RNC accounts presents yet another obstacle. I am beginning to wonder whether the White House has any interest in the American people learning the truth about these matters,” he said.