Wednesday, August 23, 2000

White House E-Mail Administrator Says He Never Told Clinton About Missing Messages

CNN reports:

The Clinton administration official who oversees the troubled White House e-mail system testified Wednesday he never told President Clinton about the computer problem that prevented thousands of White House e-mails from being properly stored and archived.

Mark Lindsay, the assistant to the president for Management and Administration, also told a court he did not threaten White House workers with jail if they went public with the problem that arose at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Lindsay's comments came in testimony before U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who is holding hearings into allegations of obstruction of justice by White House officials concerning the computer problem and the delayed reconstruction of the missing e-mails.

The e-mails, many of which were captured on back-up tapes, might be covered by subpoenas issued by the Office of the Independent Counsel, congressional committees and Judge Lamberth. Thousands of other messages, including those from the office of Vice President Al Gore, were not captured on tape and are irretrievable.

Lamberth is hearing a case brought by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. The group is suing the White House in a related matter concerning a batch of errant FBI files found inside the Clinton White House.

Lindsay -- who invoked executive privilege Tuesday when asked if he discussed the problem with President Clinton -- said Wednesday he had discussed the problem as high as then-Deputy Chief of Staff John Podesta and White House Counsel Charles Ruff, but never brought it directly to the attention of the president.

Lindsay also said he did not tell Hillary Rodham Clinton about the computer failure.

Lindsay described the White House computer system as "antiquated" and "unstable." He said his job required him to lurch from one computer crisis to the next while using the time in between to beg for more money from Congress to upgrade the system.

Lindsay said he did not understand the magnitude of the e-mail problem when he first learned of it, and his mischaracterization of the problem may have led others to inaccurately portray the situation to investigators.

But, as he did when he testified before Congress earlier this summer, Lindsay maintained that he had "absolutely not" threatened contracted White House computer technician Betty Lambuth when the problem surfaced in June 1998. He said he only spoke to Lambuth for a few seconds and never told her to keep the issue to herself.

Lambuth testified before Congress earlier this year that she and other Northrop Grumman technicians feared for their jobs because of the problem and held secret meetings in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House to discuss their situation.

Lindsay did testify that he wanted the extent of the problem limited to those working to fix it but he said that group could have included "5, 50, or 5,000" people so long as the problem was fixed.