WASHINGTON – The White House said Saturday it is agreeing to the Senate Judiciary Committee's request for how to choose someone to help recover some lost e-mails involving official presidential business.
The White House acknowledged last week that aides to President Bush improperly have used e-mail accounts created by the Republican Party to conduct official White House business, and that an undetermined number of these e-mails has been lost.
Democrats have pledged to investigate whether the e-mails were deliberately funneled through the RNC system instead of the White House's and then deleted in order to shield sensitive matters. They say this could violate a law that requires preservation — and eventual disclosure — of presidential records.
The e-mails were discovered missing as part of Congress' investigation into the firing of eight federal prosecutors. Some missing e-mails could deal with this topic.
White House officials said the improper use of the accounts and the e-mails' loss appear to be honest mistakes. They are trying to recover the missing e-mails and clarify its policy on preserving records.
Separate accounts were created for about 50 White House aides who get involved in politics over the course of Bush's terms. The intent is to avoid violating rules that bar federal employees from engaging in political activities with government resources.
On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the committee's top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, wrote White House counsel Fred Fielding to request that "we jointly agree on a fair and objective process for investigating this matter, including the use of a mutually trusted computer forensic expert."
"Such a process would help to restore the public's confidence in the White House's desire to comply with the Presidential Records Act," the senators said.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Saturday that Fielding called Leahy and Specter to say that allowing the committee input into picking an independent consultant is a good idea.
As a result of the conversation Friday, White House and committee staff plan to meet early this coming week to move forward, she said.