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WASHINGTON — In a stinging rebuke, a federal judge Monday put White
House lawyers on notice for holding back information about a longer plan to
produce missing West Wing e-mail under subpoena.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth suggested White House Counsel Beth Nolan
misled him, as well as Congress, when she testified in March that the White
House would produce the evidence within 170 days and before the November
In fact, the White House all along was hewing to a goal of 18 months —
pushing the production of evidence out past the election and even the end of
the Clinton administration, court testimony revealed.
Not until June 2, in an affidavit to the court, did the White House
acknowledge “all bets are off” regarding the 170-day timetable, Lamberth
said. But it still kept its internal goal of 18 months secret.
“When her (Nolan’s) estimate changed she never advised Congress or this
court,” Lamberth thundered.
He also blasted Jim Gilligan, the Justice Department lawyer defending the
White House, for omitting the information.
“You did omit it,” Lamberth said. “You didn’t tell me that on June 2.”
Gilligan protested that it wasn’t a “conscious omission.”
“How can you say that?” Lamberth demanded. “You weren’t going to admit that
until it was drug out in this hearing.”
Gilligan, who admitted to “missteps,” insisted “there has been no
foot-dragging or delays.”
Asked to respond to Lamberth’s comments, White House spokesman Jake Siewart
argued that Nolan’s 170-day estimate was “preliminary.”
“First of all, she didn’t present an estimate to the court. She presented an
estimate to Congress,” Siewart told WorldNetDaily. “And she said it was
The heated exchange from the bench capped the third day of hearings
exploring White House delays in recovering some million mostly West Wing
e-mails that weren’t captured by a computerized archiving system from August
1996 through October 1998. The White House blames a “technical glitch” for
the records gap.
Former White House employees have testified that the trove contains
inter-government messages about Lewinsky, Filegate, Chinagate, Commerce
Department-Democratic National Committee trade junkets and other White House
After five months, the White House still hasn’t
produced a single document. More hearings are set for
later this week.
The judge also grilled Gilligan and White House witnesses about information
revealed in two recent WorldNetDaily articles.
On April 6,
WorldNetDaily published an exclusive interview with the
president of ECS Technology Inc., the prime contractor on the more than $8 million job.
Tung Q. Duong revealed that he had little experience recovering lost computer data. He also said the White House matched him with his subcontractor, SRA International Inc., during a meeting in the White House held sometime before he was awarded the contract on March 29.
“I’d like to have SRA as my mentor,” Duong said. His firm is a small minority business classified as an 8(a) vendor.
Lamberth noted that contracting rules prohibit the government from picking subcontractors for the prime contractor.
“Did the White House tell ECS to hire SRA?” Lamberth asked Gilligan.
Gilligan maintained that SRA was the “sole” choice of ECS.
“Did the White House suggest to them to do it?” Lamberth pressed. “There might be some significance to that, wouldn’t there?”
Gilligan said he wasn’t sure and would have to get back to the judge.
In an April 5 story,
WorldNetDaily reported that SRA employs two former White House
officials who had allegedly “dragged their feet” in restoring the e-mail.
Lamberth pointed up the inherent conflict, and quizzed the White House official in charge of hiring contractors about it.
“Did you look into that?” Lamberth said.
Michael Sullivan assured him that “SRA submitted a document saying none of the following people are working on this project.”
He did not reveal the date of the document or say at what point former White House officials were cordoned off from the job. Nor did he name the “people” SRA listed.
Other developments from Monday’s hearing:
- The White House has not formally allocated the $8 million-plus for the e-mail reconstruction project. It’s dipping into money in a stop-gap fund left over from its Y2K plan.
- Contractors still can’t verify that they’ve actually copied any e-mail back-up tapes successfully. And they’re starting with tapes from Vice President Al Gore’s office, not the 3,400 ones from the West Wing that Lamberth ordered them to copy and search.
- White House computer manager Lois Loser testified that Ontrack Data International has “no knowledge” of how Lotus Notes works and would have to hire programmers to rewrite code. Ontrack is the expert witness who testified for plaintiff Judicial Watch that he could get the job done faster.
- Under questioning from Lamberth, Gilligan acknowledged that senior Clinton aide Mark Lindsay is “monitoring” the e-mail project, even though former computer workers have accused him of threatening them with jail in 1998 if they didn’t keep the e-mail gaps a secret.
E-mail expert brunt of jokes
Contractor searching for e-mail is green
More Project X intimidation?
White House tightens grip on e-mail project
‘They lied to the judge’
White House now uncertain when e-mail ready
Another tech ‘error’ scrubs Gore e-mail
Hillary must turn over e-mail
Despite claims, Hillary e-mailed via staff
Clinton’s mystery e-mail
New cover-up: ‘Project PBX’
Subpoena sparks burning question
Did House panel fry good guy?
Document backs cover-up charge
Are e-mail tapes safe?
Smoking gun in the e-mail?
Inside job on e-mail
‘The fix is in’ on e-mail fix?
Firm won’t take hit for Project X fiasco