RNC Resists Democratic Demands for Database Access
The Republican National Committee will work with the White House to turn over E-mails related to the congressional probe into the firings of federal prosecutors but won't give in to demands that the Democratic-chaired House and Senate committees get access to the party's database.
"We are drawing a line in the sand on this," said a party executive. "For the first time, we are saying that we are not going to put up with this."
While the RNC isn't breaking with the cooperation promised to Democrats by the White House, it is limiting just how far it will open its records. The RNC spelled out its concerns in letters to the House and Senate probers and balked at suggestions that it was trying to hide something. The House and Senate Judiciary committees are probing the alleged political firing of several prosecutors and are seeking E-mails from top White House and administration officials to build a paper trail.
Some involved, like Bush political adviser Karl Rove, used outside E-mail systems, one of which was provided by the RNC. However, the RNC has said that some of those messages are lost and has worked to rebuild the system. The party today said that the effort has yielded some successes.
But it said in the letters that it won't do more than provide those E-mails and certainly will fight any bid by Democrats to mine the larger party database.
"The RNC believes that any search of those systems raises serious First Amendment concerns," the RNC said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We trust the committee recognizes this concern, particularly where, as here, there is a genuine danger that political partisans may seek access to the RNC's information technology systems for political advantage."
In its letter to the House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, the RNC took offense at Democratic reaction to its plan to have the White House first review retrieved E-mails before providing them to the committee.
"You suggested in your letter that permitting the White House to review E-mails sent or received by White House employees to determine whether executive branch privileges apply would be viewed by the committee 'potentially as an obstruction of our investigation.' The RNC takes strong exception to this unfounded and inflammatory suggestion," the party said in the letter. It also rejected demands for internal communications.
"To the extent that the committee seeks purely internal RNC communications, this would be highly intrusive and raise profound First Amendment issues. We therefore construe your request not to cover such internal communications."
Both letters were sent from Robert Kelner, the party's lawyer with Covington & Burling.