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The Other Scandal Involving Destruction of Evidence

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I just finished poring over yet another set of written answers from a former senior Justice Department official who—extremely unconvincingly—insists over and again that he “has no present recollection” of communications between the White House and figures in the Justice Department about a series of matters which have Karl Rove’s fingerprints all over them.

However, the incessant stonewalling by the Justice Department is, if anything, actually exceeded in its outrageousness by the White House, which has issued a steadily lengthening series of contradictory explanations. The emails were “accidentally” deleted. Then apparently they weren’t. Then the emails were mostly on servers of the Republican National Committee. And the White House then told us, in one of a great many utterly preposterous legal claims, that information on Republican National Committee servers were subject to claims of Executive Privilege. From another perspective, however, that was just right: for the last seven years the Executive Branch has been fused with the Republican Party. It perfectly matched the vision of a totalitarian state.

However, the Associated Press’s Pete Yost, reports that a federal judge has decided to stop simply taking the parade of White House whoppers, and is demanding action:

A federal magistrate ordered the White House on Tuesday to reveal whether copies of possibly millions of missing e-mails are stored on computer backup tapes. The order by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola comes amid an effort by the White House to scuttle two lawsuits that could force the Executive Office of the President to recover any e-mail that has disappeared from computer servers where electronic documents are automatically archived.

Two federal laws require the White House to preserve all records including e-mail. Facciola gave the White House five business days to report whether computer backup tapes contain e-mails written between 2003 and 2005.

The “disappearance” of the White House emails—which includes not only thousands of emails from Karl Rove and his team, but also from Vice President Cheney and his team—were discovered by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald when he started investigating the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, undertaken with the direction and coordination of Cheney himself.

The judge’s order can be viewed here. Don’t expect White House compliance, however. Expect still more dodges and a hundred further variations on “the dog ate my homework.” That’s the kind of White House we’re dealing with. And the Department of Justice will not be pursuing justice. As usual, it will be playing partisan political guerrilla warfare and doing everything in its power to obstruct justice.

The nation’s attention right now is focused on the affair of the destroyed torture tapes. That also leads straight into the White House. Four senior White House lawyers were involved in the decision-making and one—probably Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington–aggressively advocated destruction of the evidence in the face of court orders. However, the destruction of the internal email traffic is potentially even more important. It provides likely evidence of the abusive manipulation of the mechanics of the criminal justice system by the White House.

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