The use of multiple e-mail accounts to bypass the spirit and letter of the law governing White House documents and communications is a major development in the growing Prosecutor Purge Scandal:
In other words, it was an open secret at the White House that the parallel system was to be used for everything you didn't want coming out later—an understanding that was most likely never made explicit, but a situation that was carefully preserved by not providing apparently any parameters for what sort of communication should be done via the White House system.
So, we fight with the WH to find and release these emails and other documents.
Meanwhile the US Senate is sitting on over 750,000 pages that would blow this scandal wide open.
To the jump...
Before we begin to examine why and how they would blow the current Prosecutor Purge Scandal wide open , let’s take a moment to appreciate the massive pile of documents that the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee gathered during their investigation of Jack Abramoff.
Did I say
investigation, sorry my bad, I meant cover-up.
From the start, Mr. Curveball, John McCain worked overtime to keep a lid on the most damaging aspects of the Abramoff scandal.
He was the perfect guy to shape the narrative. Abramoff became a rogue lobbyist who took advantage of his GOP pals to rip off some casinos.
McCain converted the scandal into Hollywood "heist/caper" film, knowing that American prejudices against Native Americans and tribal casinos would help hide the damning details of the Abramoff scandal:
- Jack’s role as a 25-year bagman for the GOP: hidden.
- Jack’s close working relationship with the Bush White House: hidden.
- Jack’s close working relationship with the Republican Congressional Leadership: hidden.
- Jack’s role in dirty tricks and off-the-books money for the GOP: hidden.
- Jack’s role in Medicare reform: hidden.
- Jack’s role energy policy: hidden.
McCain actively controlled the story. He ensured that it was a not a factor in the 2004 election. He ensured that voters would not know about how closely Abramoff, Rove and Bush worked together. The work of McCain limited the damage the Abramoff scandal had on the GOP in the 2006 election.
And yet, the work of McCain’s SIAC is important because of the vast amount of documents the Committee NOW has in their possession.
Last fall, Peter Stone wrote a book, Heist, about the Abramoff scandal. It was mostly a shallow Google/Lexis digest of other reporting on the scandal, but there is this revealing statistic (emphasis added) on page 159:
During the course of its two-year investigation, the [Indian Affairs] committee issued more than seventy subpoenas and other requests for documents and received over 750,000 pages of records.
I’ve checked this with other sources and the actual number of pages is higher. Let this sink in a moment:
Right now. Today. The Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee is sitting on more than 750,000 pages of records related to the Abramoff Scandal and the Republican Culture of Corruption
Less than 8,000 pages of those documents have been released by McCain’s investigation.
None of these documents have been released or reviewed since the documents were gathered and the final report was issued almost a year ago. This is despite the fact that new revelations about the many Abramoff connected Republican scandals have since come to light.
These 750,000 pages of documents need to be made public! The SIAC needs to release them. Doing so will blow the Culture of Corruption wide open and force real change. We need to demand their release.
Here are just a few examples:
First, it is not a surprise that the White House connection to Jack Abramoff has become a key part of the growing Prosecutor Purge scandal. This recent story from Mother Jones sums up why (emphasis added):
On February 6, 2003, lobbyist Jack Abramoff sent an email to his former executive assistant Susan Ralston, who had since gone on to work for Karl Rove, requesting that she pass along an important message to her boss. [snip]
Instead of responding to an email account administered by the Republican National Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org) as he had intended, he sent the message to Ralston's White House address. The following day Abramoff was alerted to his error by a colleague, Kevin Ring, who'd spoken to a White House official to whom Abramoff's request had been forwarded. "She said it is better to not put this stuff in writing in their email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc.," Ring wrote. Abramoff responded swiftly: "Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her rnc [Republican National Committee] pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system."
The significance of this intriguing exchange, which was among thousands of emails reviewed by investigators for the House Government Reform Committee as part of an extensive investigation into Abramoff, might have gone unrecognized had it not been for another scandal, this one involving the abrupt firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. As the controversy intensified in early March and hearings were held, the Department of Justice was forced to release thousands of documents, including email exchanges between Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson, who resigned in mid-March, and Rove deputy J. Scott Jennings.
Here too was evidence that White House officials were conducting business using RNC email accounts, domains such as gwb43.com and rnchq.org. But why?
Now the case of Abramoff using "@georgewbush.com" addresses comes from an October 2006 report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (COGR). This report came out while Democrats were in the Minority and weeks ahead of the election. According to the Final Report (PDF), the Committee
...obtained billing records and e-mail communications of Abramoff and his associates at his lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig L.L.P., relating to instances of lobbying officials at the White House. The e-mail and billing data provided to the Committee by Abramoff’s firm spanned three years, included the dealings of approximately 20 lobbyists. In total, it amounted to more than 14,000 pages.
Only 264 of those pages were release by the committee. All 14,000 plus pages of these documents should be released to the public. These same pages may or may not be in the collection of 750,000 pages controlled by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. All these documents should be released.
Of the pages that were not released, the COGR referenced some of them in a 51 page spreadsheet of contacts between Team Abramoff and the Bush White House (PDF). The entries are heavily redacted. Here is a sample from May-June of 2001:
The form of these entries was familiar to me. They must come from the billing invoices that Abramoff and Greenberg Traurig sent to some of their clients. The form matches the billing records sent to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) by Abramoff his lobbying firms. About 5,000 plus pages of these billing records, emails and other documents were collected as part of a November 2001 audit of lobbying expenses conducted by CNMI Office of Public Auditor (OPA) for the Marianas government. Copies of these pages were given to media organizations and others, but only a fraction of them have been released to the public.
There are gaps in these CNMI documents and a complete set may be part of the 750,000 pages of documents that the SIAC is sitting on. The CNMI documents were not part of the record that were included in the October 2006 report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
For example, this page from the CNMI billing records notes Team Abramoff meetings with the White House are missing from the above page of the COGR spreadsheet:
And this page from the CNMI invoices shows a 6-19-01 meeting between Jack Abramoff and "Bush Administration policy advisors". It is also missing from the above page of the COGR spreadsheet:
The COGR report only covers contacts with the White House for less than a dozen of Abramoff’s clients—many are missing. Like the CNMI account, it is likely that Team Abramoff worked the White House on their behalf. The 750,000 pages of documents that the SIAC is warehousing would shed more light on the deep connections between Abramoff, Rove and the Bush White House.
They would also reveal his ties to most Republican members of Congress. Their release would spark a wave of retirements and indictments. No wonder McCain worked so hard to cover this up.
The 264 documents that the COGR released last fall included more damning evidence of the Culture of Corruption and the need to release the 750,000 pages of Abramoff documents.
As the story from Mother Jones mentioned, these documents were the first ones released to show that the Bush White House was using multiple email accounts to hide their dirty work. A search of just these 264 pages reveals:
- more than 15 uses of a "@gwb.com" address;
- more than 10 uses of a "@rnchq.org" address; and
- more than 35 uses of a "@georgewbush.com" address
I am certain that a search of the 750,000 plus documents that the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee has archived would reveal many, many more instances of these off-the-books White House e-mail addresses.
Then there are Abramoff’s daily wrap-ups from his assistants. The 264 pages include several of these tantalizing documents. Take this one from January 21, 1999 when Susan Ralston was still Jack’s Gal Friday:
So way back in 1999 Rove and Abramoff were working together. These Daily Wrap-ups raise many interesting questions like who is "Marina" and why was Abramoff faxing an article on Bin-Laden to her? But I digress.
By March of 2001, Susan Ralston had moved to the White House and worked as Karl Rove’s gate keeper. Jack’s new assistants continued sending him a daily wrap-up of their work on his behalf. Take this one from March 6, 2001:
Jack had a 4:30 meeting with Karl Rove and he had an agenda of items for them to discuss. I wonder if that agenda is in the 750,000 pages of documents that the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee has sitting in a closet somewhere.
And the entries in the heavily redacted COGR spreadsheet of contacts between Team Abramoff and the Bush White House failed to mention Jack's March 6, 2001 meeting with Karl Rove:
But it was in the emails the Committee released. It is quite likely that the 750,000 pages of SIAC documents have almost ten year’s worth of Abramoff’s daily wrap-ups from his assistants over the years. These alone would be a goldmine of information, but wait there’s more.
These 750,000 pages would blow the Culture of Corruption wide open. It would hit the White House. It would hit Senators. It would hit Congressmen and Congresswomen. It would hit Jack’s allies in the media. It would hit Ralph Reed, Grover Noquist, the Heritage Foundation and the rest of the vast Right Wing network of fundraisers, think tank wonks, grifters and weasels.
These documents might also be embarrassing to a few Democrats. And while I have long said that "there are ZERO Democrats who took Abramoff money," I can not say that every Democrat would avoid the taint of this scandal.
Abramoff had hired former Democratic staffers to be on his team. These folks helped him. The 750,000 pages of SIAC documents might put some elected Democrats in a bad light. It is possible.
For example, right now, the Pirates of Saipan have hired a Democratic Lobbying firm with ties to one of our Presidential Candidates. Another of our Candidates has taken at least $10,000 in donations from the Tan Family, including Willie Tan (celebrated in news reports, released documents and Court filings as a key participant in the growing Abramoff/GOP scandal). These are two prominent Democrats with financial ties to the Abramoff scandal—financial connections made after Abramoff’s corruption was exposed.
It is embarrassing.
Still, the truth needs to come out and the 750,000 pages of documents should be made public. We need to demand it.
The growing Prosecutor Purge Scandal is exposing a Bush/GOP scandal pandemic.
The Boy King embraced a Culture of Corruption to get elected and hold onto to power. Now that culture has morphed into a full-blown cancer on the Bush Presidency.
It is a cancer rapidly spreading through every level of our National Government. This Culture of Corruption is rotting away our Democracy from the inside. We must expose and remove this cancer before it is too late.
Making public 750,000 pages of Abramoff documents will help us remove this corruption. It will force real and lasting lobbying reform.
We need to speed things up.
2007 is a year for gathering facts and holding their feet to the fire. 2008 is a year to defeat these scoundrels at the ballot box.
- Write letters, contact the press, call talk shows, post comments, and otherwise promote this effort. Demand the release of these 750,000 pages of documents.
- Research. Follow the money. Find the quid pro quos. Dig into the ties of the GOP to CNMI and Guam, or to Cunningham, or to ripping off Native Americans, or to any of the entry points into the web of scandal. Grab a mask and a shovel and start digging into the many aspects of this cesspool of corruption.
- Get out the truth and hold the GOP accountable in 2007 and 2008. Perhaps Republican candidates will want to explain to voters why they wanted to kill the Abramoff and other corruption investigation. We should force the question.
Let’s push this hard.
Over at Talking Points Memo,
Josh Marshall is pointing to a new Wall Street Journal story that connects the Abramoff investigation to the White House and Karl Rove:
The Justice Department's Public Integrity Section is investigating connections between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House, a probe that may be affected by missing White House emails.
Lawyers involved in the case said that beginning more than a year ago, federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Mr. Abramoff and other cooperating witnesses at length about numerous contacts between Mr. Abramoff and White House officials, including presidential adviser Karl Rove. [snip]
People with direct knowledge of the investigation say that all of Mr. Abramoff's email correspondence was preserved and turned over to prosecutors, including those with the White House. But it isn't clear to what extent Mr. Rove and others in the White House may have exchanged messages among themselves, or with others outside, pertaining to Mr. Abramoff, and whether any of these may have been erased. The White House didn't respond to requests for comment.
There is more and it makes the case to release the 750,000 pages of documents that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has stashed in the backroom...