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Waxman: Administration Illegally Failed To Preserve Emails

For all of you folks worried that Henry Waxman's dogged campaign to make Major League Baseball shape up might distract him from his real mission in life--unearthing egregious instances of misconduct by the Bush administration--today's Washington Post story should set your minds at ease. The lead graf says it all:

The White House possesses no archived e-mail messages for many of its component offices, including the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, for hundreds of days between 2003 and 2005, according to the summary of an internal White House study that was disclosed yesterday by [Waxman].

Then again, maybe this isn't as bad as it sounds. We all know that the Office of the Vice President isn't actually part of the executive branch, so that's no big concern, and maybe there were just a few slow days around the White House, right? How many emails per day can it really take to run the federal government?

[Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington chief counsel Anne] Weismann said the source further described many more days during the same period when the volume of archived e-mail was unusually low. "The example I was given is that the average volumes per day in the White House office, for example, was 60,000 to 100,000, yet there were entire weeks when it was as low as five a day," she said.

The administration is required by law to preserve all emails pertaining to the discharge of the functions of the presidency. It's worth noting that the White House disputes Waxman's version of events, though at this point it's just their word against his because the administration, which conducted the investigation into the matter, isn't willing to make its findings public:

The administration has so far refused to release the study and a number of documents related to it, including a large summary chart used in a closed-door briefing conducted for Waxman and other lawmakers last September by Emmet T. Flood, special counsel to the president.

The briefers took the chart with them when they left, Waxman said, but committee staffers had copied many of the details.

If Waxman's account is correct, isn't this, you know, sort of a big deal?

--Josh Patashnik