WASHINGTON — Hearings into missing White House e-mail took a
surprise turn yesterday when a former White House computer manager said
she told Congress about gaps in e-mail records almost two years ago.
The federal court testimony undercuts GOP lawmakers’ claims that the
White House never told them the subpoenaed e-mails were missing until
Sheryl Hall, a former branch chief in the White House’s computer
division, said she secretly briefed a House investigator in November
1998 about the records gap, known internally as “Project X.”
She says the Republican staff lawyer, who went on to work for the
independent counsel, didn’t follow up on her complaint.
The lawyer, Keith Ausbrook, told WorldNetDaily he doesn’t recall
talking about Project X with Hall.
Hall was the leadoff witness in a new round of hearings into charges
the White House has been blocking the production of evidence relevant to
She also suggested a White House computer contractor misled Congress
when he testified he kept no secret files of e-mails tied to various
Hall said Northrop Grumman e-mail expert Robert Haas told her and
another witness in a late June 1998 meeting in her office that he stored
the files on a zip disk. He told Congress another story, she says, to
save his White House job.
Haas, while “pacing” in her office, told her and White House computer
specialist Sharon Mitchell that he “feared for his life” and wanted to
show a friend what he’d found while searching the trove of missing
e-mail, Hall said.
He said he’d stumbled onto e-mails tied to Chinagate, Filegate and
other White House scandals, Hall recounted.
Haas said the “results (of investigations) would be different and
other people would go to jail” if investigators had the e-mails, she
Though he has denied being afraid for his life, Haas has accused two
White House officials of threatening him with jail if he didn’t keep
Project X secret.
Hall’s talk with Ausbrook also raises the question of what and when
the independent counsel’s office knew about Project X.
Ausbrook joined the independent counsel’s staff in February 1999 –
just over two months after Hall says she told him the White House didn’t
search all its e-mail records in response to subpoenas.
Both Congress and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had issued
subpoenas for White House e-mails.
Starr’s successor, Robert Ray, just this April launched a criminal
probe to see if the White House tried to cover up the e-mail records
“If she had told me about it, I would have done something about it,”
Hall provided more details after the hearing.
She said she met with Ausbrook at his House Rayburn Building office
around 6 p.m. on Nov. 30, 1998 — about five months after a huge gap in
mostly West Wing e-mail was discovered by Haas and other contractors.
“I told him there was a computer mistake and over 100,000 e-mails
were missing,” she said. “And all these (subpoena) searches have been
She also recalled describing the problem as “Project X.”
Hall said she tipped Congress off because she didn’t know where else
Ausbrook had interviewed Hall in 1996 as part of a House Government
Reform Committee panel’s probe into charges the White House used a
taxpayer-paid computer database called “WHODB” to solicit political
In hearings this year, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan
Burton has blasted White House officials for failing to inform Congress
about the hole in e-mail records.
Asked if he’d had any contact with Hall in 1998, Ausbrook says he
talked to her a “couple of times” and “might have met with her once.”
But he remembers discussing only WHODB-related issues and nothing
about Project X.
“I have no recollection of that,” he said.
After filling him in, Hall says Ausbrook told her he’d “think about
“I expected him to follow up and pursue it,” she said. “I was
surprised he didn’t do something like issue a new subpoena” for the
Ausbrook says that’s exactly what he would have done — if he’d known
“Even if Sheryl Hall did tell us,” he added, “it still wasn’t the
White House telling us.”
That’s an issue a federal grand jury is weighing.
White House witnesses have already been questioned. And Ray has
issued grand-jury subpoenas to the National Archives for documents
related to White House records-keeping practices.
WorldNetDaily has learned that Ray has assigned several prosecutors
and FBI agents to the case.
So far they’ve taken depositions from Hall and another whistleblower,
former Northrop Grumman contractor Betty Lambuth. She says White House
officials threatened her and others with jail if they talked about
Investigators for Burton’s committee have deposed another
whistleblower, former White House computer division director Kathleen
They interviewed her at her Virginia offices more than a month ago. A
staffer said she dropped some “bombshells.”
But Burton, who sent two scouts to yesterday’s court hearing, hasn’t
called Gallant to testify in public hearings. His panel has been
stretched thin since losing press secretary Mark Corallo to the Bush
Gallant, however, will take the stand tomorrow as one of many
witnesses government watchdog Judicial Watch plans to call to convince
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth to take the e-mail search project
away from the White House.