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Thursday, April 12, 2007
White House: 'We screwed up' with e-mails

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino commented on the e-mail controversy Thursday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House spokeswoman Dana Perino made a blunt admission Thursday about the fact that the administration did a poor job of handling White House e-mail sent out on Republican accounts.

"I will admit it -- we screwed up and we're trying to fix it," said Perino.

At issue is the White House's own admission that 22 current aides -- including top political adviser Karl Rove -- may have improperly used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts for official White House business.

Democrats are raising sharp questions about whether Rove and others used these outside e-mail accounts to avoid scrutiny of their involvement in sensitive matters like the flap over the eight U.S. attorneys being fired.

Perino insisted the aides only used the Republican accounts out of an abundance of caution to make sure they did not conduct political business on official government time, which would be a violation of the Hatch Act. She said that any deletion of e-mails from the Republican accounts was sparked by confusion over a White House policy that has since been clarified.

But Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, suggested Thursday that White House aides are lying about the deletion of the e-mails and that the aides may have violated a separate law -- the Presidential Records Act -- by not properly saving the e-mails.

"They say they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!" Leahy yelled on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, vowing to subpoena the e-mails if necessary.

"Now we're learning that off-book communications are being used by these people in the White House by using Republican political e-mail addresses, and they say they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!" Leahy yelled on the Senate floor Thursday morning, vowing to subpoena the documents if necessary.

Perino fired back: "I don't know if Senator Leahy is an IT expert."

-- CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry
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