RNC has already handed over some documents, may withhold others

Some e-mails sought by the House Judiciary Committee were delivered on Wednesday, Salon has learned; others may be withheld at the direction of the White House.

Published July 13, 2007 10:35PM (EDT)

The Republican National Committee has already turned over some of the documents apparently covered under the subpoena issued Friday by the House Judiciary Committee, Salon has learned. The RNC may withhold others, however, by direction of the White House, potentially setting up further fights over executive privilege between the White House and Congress.

As part of the ongoing investigation into the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys, the committee has been since April seeking e-mails, sent by White House officials using RNC e-mail accounts, which might relate to the investigation. The committee's subpoena calls for the RNC to turn over "complete and unredacted versions of any and all documents consisting of any e-mail communication or related meta-data stored on Republican National Committee servers... that the Republican National Committee is withholding."

A committee aide dismissed the documents handed over already -- which are not covered by the administration's assertion of privilege, and were delivered to the committee on Wednesday, a day before the subpoenas were authorized -- as unimportant.

"The documents weren't relevant to this matter," the aide said. "There really wasn't anything useful in them."

There's no official word from the RNC on whether or not it will comply with the subpoena and deliver the rest of the material covered under it -- indeed, the majority of the material covered -- by Tuesday. But their statements thus far seem to indicate that they will not.

"The Republican National Committee has taken all reasonable steps to comply," Tracey Schmitt, the RNC's press secretary, told Salon. "There are weighty constitutional interests at stake, and we believe this will now be properly be resolved between the Legislative and Executive branches." Schmitt declined to comment definitively on whether that meant the RNC would not comply with the subpoena.

In a letter that accompanied the documents on Wednesday and that was obtained by Salon, the RNC's outside counsel, Robert K. Kelner, told committee chair Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., that "There are other documents... which the RNC is withholding based on White House direction.

"The White House yesterday indicated that those documents are either covered by the subpoena previously issued to the White House by the Committee, as to which the White House has invoked executive privilege, or are otherwise subject to executive branch interests," Kelner wrote. "... In light of these privilege concerns, the RNC is complying with the White House's direction."

Because the RNC has not yet officially responded to the committee's subpoena, a spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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