Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Bring Back Jim Webb!

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 11:11 PM EST

It's hard to be a worse speaker than George W. Bush. But Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic governor of Kansas, gave it a shot. Sebelius gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union. She's not a good speaker—she's obviously glued to the teleprompter, and the speech itself is awful. It's really too bad, because this could have been a great moment for the Democrats. Bush's speech is already being dismissed as a lame duck's list of unfulfilled plans and missed opportunities. Democrats could have capitalized on that. But instead of trying to draw a clear election-year contrast between her party and the huge numbers of congressional Republicans who are still loyal to Bush, Sebelius mailed it in.

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Analysis Shows Possible Pattern in Missing White House Emails

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 5:20 PM EST

waxman250x200.jpg Since last Spring, the White House has repeatedly told the press and Congress about a potential problem involving millions of missing emails. But last Thursday the story changed: An administration spokesman told reporters "we have no way of showing that any emails at all are missing."

(You can find all of our past coverage of this issue in our missing White House emails index.)

Rep. Henry Waxman, the Oversight Committee chairman, was understandably concerned by the sudden change in the administration's story. They had originally told him that there were 473 days for which no email was archived; now they were saying they weren't sure if any were missing at all. So Waxman and the Oversight Committee scheduled a hearing on February 15 to clear up all the confusion. He quickly fired off letters to White House counsel Fred Fielding (PDF) and Allen Weinstein, the National Archivist (PDF), requesting their testimony. Also invited to testify is Alan Swendiman, the Director of the Office of Administration.

White House: What Missing Emails?

| Thu Jan. 17, 2008 8:43 PM EST

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Today, the White House dramatically changed its tune on the 5 to 10 million emails reportedly missing from its servers. Since early 2007, the administration has repeatedly acknowledged (to the press and Congress) that it had experienced a "technical issue" and that a still unknown quantity of emails might not have been archived, as required by the Presidential Records Act. But, asked by reporter about the missing emails today at a White House press conference, Tony Fratto, the deputy press secretary, contradicted the administration's previous statements.

White House 'Recycled' Backups of its Email Records

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 5:10 PM EST

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Late last night the White House submitted a curious court filing (PDF) in the ongoing case over the 5 to 10 million emails, spanning 2003 to 2005, that have gone missing from its archives due to a "technical issue." Faced with a court order (PDF), the White House said that it has backup tapes of its email records—but only after October 2003, when it stopped recycling its backups. This means that there are apparently no backups of messages sent and received during the previous ten months of 2003—an important time period, covering the run up to the Iraq war, as well as the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert identity. As if this story couldn't get more convoluted, the White House is also claiming it doesn't know whether any emails from that period are actually missing.

"They suggest that they don't even know if they have anomalies, but there's plenty of public record evidence that they do [know]," says Anne Weismann, chief counsel for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which, along with the National Security Archives (NSA), is suing the administration to ensure the preservation of presidential records. "This is an extremely carefully worded declaration that when you parse it through doesn't really say a whole lot," Weismann said.

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