From the White House, an Abramoff shell game

The Secret Service couldn't produce comprehensive Abramoff logs ... because the White House has them.

Tim Grieve
May 18, 2006 8:17PM (UTC)

When the Secret Service was preparing to turn over logs showing Jack Abramoff's comings and goings from the White House, Scott McClellan warned that the documents wouldn't be a "complete historial record" of the lobbyist's visits. He was right: While McClellan has acknowledged that Abramoff visited the White House for two holiday parties and "a few" staff-level meetings, the logs the Secret Service released showed only two Abramoff visits.

So what happened? As TPMmuckraker is reporting, the Secret Service acknowledged in court filings this week that it may well have logged more Abramoff visits through its Workers Appointments and Visitors Entry System -- but that if it did, those documents aren't in the Secret Service's possession anymore, so it doesn't have any obligation to turn them over as a part of its settlement of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.


"It has been the longstanding practice of the Secret Service to transfer WAVES records on CD-ROM to the White House every 30 to 60 days," a Secret Service official says in a court declaration. "Once the Secret Service transferred the WAVES records, the Secret Service ensured those records were erased from its computer system."

So maybe this explains how McClellan knew that the Secret Service wouldn't be producing a "complete historical record" of Abramoff's visits; as the White House press secretary, McClellan presumably knew that the White House -- not the Secret Service -- had the records, and thus that Judicial Watch had filed its lawsuit against the wrong governmental entity.

What this doesn't explain: Why the White House didn't release the records long before a lawsuit was filed; why nobody at the Secret Service or the White House bothered to explain the issue before now; and why Americans -- or at least 33 percent of them -- still put up with these kinds of games from people who were supposed to be restoring honesty and integrity to the Oval Office.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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