No Comment — June 18, 2007, 4:56 pm

Of Missing Emails and 18-Minute Gaps

The White House’s claims concerning the email-habits of Karl Rove and his key associates just get curiouser and curiouser. First we learned that Rove and Company used a large volume of private email accounts with the Republican National Committee to transact official business. The communications included instructions given to federal agencies concerning hiring and firing – indeed, an inquiry into the decision to ax U.S. attorneys for political reasons launched the original inquiry – as well as policy-making. Then we heard that millions of emails had simply disappeared without a trace. “It sounds like ‘the dog ate my homework,” said Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy. And indeed, the White House later came back and said that most of the missing emails weren’t missing at all. Today we learn from an important report issued by the House Oversight Committee that the scope of the outside email problem is still larger than we knew:

The RNC has preserved more than 140,000 e-mails sent or received by Rove, but only 130 were written before President Bush won re-election in 2004, according to the report. The committee has preserved another 100,000 e-mails from two of Rove’s top lieutenants, former White House political director Sara M. Taylor and deputy political director W. Scott Jennings, according to the House Oversight Committee. But the RNC has no e-mail records for 51 of 88 White House officials — such as Ken Mehlman, the White House political director from 2001 through early 2003 — who used their servers in addition to government e-mail accounts, according to a summary of the panel’s report.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has been investigating whether the e-mail accounts run by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign committee violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires that every White House official “assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented.” The House and Senate Judiciary committees also are seeking the RNC e-mails of White House officials, particularly Rove, Taylor and Jennings, to examine whether Bush’s top advisers played roles in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Now if a young federal prosecutor were handling this investigation and had heard the things that come out of this dialogue, he would have long since sent a couple of FBI agents over to impound the servers to preserve the evidence. It’s clear enough that the evidence is being played around with. And the arguments advanced by the White House border on the “now-top-this” ludicrous. For instance, assertions of Executive Privilege with respect to communications on the RNC’s servers. Does the White House intend to confirm that we are a One-Party State along the lines of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four? That’s the only way it claims can be transposed into something halfway coherent. We know that Rove and Company think this way, but are they prepared to argue it as an article of defense?

A cover-up is still underway, involving no shortage of acts of potentially criminal obstruction. The Bush White House has far exceeded any predecessor as a manufacturer of stone walls; the email affair is far wider in scope and potentially importance that the 18-minute gap of yore. It’s time to start tearing those walls down to let a bit of sunshine in. It’s also time for speed and a sharp focus from the capable Henry Waxman.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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