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RoveGate: The 12 hour gap

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Two points to Frank Rich for resuscitating an issue that I knew about, then forgot about. Namely, that then- White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez knew about the Justice Department investigation of the Valerie Plame leak but then didn't ask the White House staff to preserve all evidence until 12 hours later. In the mean time, he told Andy Card, White House chief of staff about it.

At the time, I remember thinking - gee, giving the staff time to shred the evidence legally? And now the issue comes up again.

Why would Gonzalez give the staff 12 hours? Why would he tell Andy Card THEN wait 12 hours to say "but you can't destroy any evidence"? it's one thing to not tell ANYONE for 12 hours, but to tell the chief of staff that you're going to go through all of his files and his staff's files, but then not give the "don't touch anything" order for another 12 hours. That smacks of obstruction of justice.

I sincerely hope Patrick Fitzgerald has looked into this aspect of the case.

Here's Arianna's blog's take on the gap:

On Face The Nation, Gonzales said the Justice Department contacted him at 8pm and, after responding by saying something to the effect that everyone had gone home for the night, Gonzales asked if it would be okay if he waited until 8am the next day to notify The White House Staff to "preserve all records" etc. Gonzales got permission to do so, but then - again this is Gonzales speaking on Face The Nation - he said he contacted Andrew Card to informally tell him what had happened.

I wish you could have seen Bob Schieffer's face as he came back from commercial break to his next guest, Senator Joe Biden, who he then took up this issue with. Bob Schieffer said to Joe Biden (I'm paraphrasing here...I'll post the transcript when it's available) "You know, everyone in The White House has these BlackBerrys. And you have to wonder what sort of message Andrew Card emailed at 8pm to the other people in The White House...what sort of documents could have been shredded in those 12 hours." There was little Joe Biden needed to add to what Bob Schieffer said. But Watergate - and the famous 18 1/2 minute gap on the audio recording (remember Nixon's secretary, Rosemary Woods posing for a picture in which she tried to demonstrate how she could have accidentally erased those 18 1/2 minutes from the tape?) - suddenly became the "pink elephant" in the room. You could see it on Schieffer and Biden's faces.

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