WASHINGTON - Some White House staff wrote e-mail messages about official business on Republican Party accounts, and some may have been wrongly deleted, the administration said on Wednesday in an embarrassing disclosure tied to the probe into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.The White House said it could not rule out the possibility that some official e-mails relating to the firings had been deleted and are lost.
Democrats in Congress have been seeking copies of e-mails from the Republican National Committee as part of an investigation into whether the firing of the prosecutors last year was politically motivated.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters 22 White House officials were allowed to maintain e-mail addresses through the Republican National Committee. They included President George W. Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and several of his deputies.
Democrats have been seeking information that might tie Rove to the decision to fire the attorneys.
Some White House aides trying to avoid violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits using government property for certain political activities, may have used the political account to communicate about official White House business, Stanzel said.
Some of those official e-mails may be lost because the RNC had a policy of deleting e-mails about every 30 days from its accounts. That policy was changed in 2004 to exclude White House officials, who are required to retain records and correspondence and everything e-mailed from a White House account is automatically archived, Stanzel said.
"Some official e-mails have potentially been lost and that is a mistake the White House is aggressively working to correct," he said.
Asked whether some of the lost e-mails could be related to the firings of the U.S. attorneys last year, Stanzel said: "That can't be ruled out."
The White House admission came as the Democratic-led Congress moved to obtain additional documents from the administration in its investigation of the firing of eight prosecutors, a case that has prompted bipartisan calls for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign.
Gonzales received a subpoena on Tuesday from the House Judiciary Committee for documents related to the firings.
The White House said Bush had asked the Justice Department to be "fully responsive" to the request.
Gonzales, who with Bush's public support has rejected calls to resign, is to appear next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which plans to authorize subpoenas of its own on Thursday for administration documents.
© Reuters 2007.