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On the March 21 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported that the Justice Department released 3,000 pages of email communications regarding the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys as part of what the White House calls an "unprecedented" offer. Co-host Matt Lauer also noted that President Bush had agreed to make public "3,000 pages of email." But neither O'Donnell nor Lauer mentioned that the documents released do not include internal White House records.
According to a March 21 Washington Post article, the Justice Department "released thousands of pages of internal agency documents -- though not internal White House records." In a March 20 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, White House counsel Fred Fielding noted the documents released by the Justice Department and offered Congress additional documents. Fielding stipulated, however, that the administration would provide copies of only those communications between the White House and either Justice officials or "third parties." Excluded from these two categories were internal White House communications:
In keeping with the President's commitment to ensure that Congress and the American people understand the resignations of the U.S. Attorneys, the Department of Justice has produced more than 3,000 pages of documents relating to this matter.
As an additional accommodation, and as part of this proposal, we are prepared to provide to your Committees copies of two categories of documents: (a) communications between the White House and the Department of Justice concerning the request for resignations of the U.S. Attorneys in question; and (b) communications on the same subject between White House staff and third parties, including Members of Congress or their staffs on the subject.
From the March 21 edition of NBC's Today:
O'DONNELL: The White House is making an offer -- one the president labels unprecedented. Three thousand pages of emails and documents already turned over, and Congress can privately interview top officials, but, with a catch: no oath, no transcript, no public hearing. Democrats say, "No way."
LAUER: Let's start with the deal, OK? The president says to the Democrats, "I'm going to give you these 3,000 pages of email. I'm going to give you access to some of my top officials -- Karl Rove, Harriet Miers -- but I am not going to give you any testimony under oath. There will be nothing on the record, and there will be no transcript." What's the precedent he's trying to protect and why is it so important?