Friday, April 13, 2007

Maybe it is the Cover-Up After All

On Monday I suggested (here) that contrary to the Nixonian wisdom about scandals, the action in the Gonzales Eight Massacre really does concern the underlying conduct rather than the cover-up. With the emergence of more details about the use by Karl Rove and others of their Republican National Committee email accounts, I'm beginning to think that the truth lies somewhere in between. More precisely, it appears that the cover-up and the conduct are inextricably connected.

Presidential Records Act requires the White House to save "[d]ocumentary materials produced or received by the President, his staff, or units or individuals in the Executive Office of the President the function of which is to advise and assist the President . . . ." Although the law was adopted before the widespread use of email, it clearly covers email. Thus, the use of RNC rather than White House email accounts for official government business --- such as advice and assistance regarding which U.S. Attorneys to retain and which to dismiss --- looks like an attempt to circumvent the law.

Notice the mirroring quality of the scandal and the cover-up. The scandal --- efforts to pressure U.S. Attorneys to make decisions about whom to prosecute based on the party affiliations of the potential defendants --- subverts justice by making the government an agent of a political party. Meanwhile the cover-up --- use of RNC email accounts to evade responsibility for acts committed in a governmental capacity --- is an effort to outsource government functions that by law must be undertaken under government supervision.

That, of course, assumes the worst. The Administration's defenders note that use of RNC accounts could have been motivated by a desire to comply with prohibitions on using government resources for partisan purposes, such as fundraising. The content of the emails --- assuming they're all found --- should settle this question.