Thursday, August 7, 2014

MORE Destroyed or "Lost" EMAILS...

Last October the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman announced that he had subpoenaed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for documents related to the troubled launch of, which, up to that point, the department had not provided to the Committee.

According to a Committee Media Dispatch, Issa said:
"The Administration’s failure to provide answers about what led to the disastrous launch of and what is being done to fix it is completely unacceptable...The evidence is mounting that the website did not go through proper testing, including critical security testing, and that the Administration ignored repeated warnings from contractors about ongoing problems...The American people deserve to know why the Administration spent significant taxpayer money on a product that is entirely dysfunctional and puts their personal information at risk. The website, however, is just the beginning of the problems with the health care law. ObamaCare is the president’s signature legislative achievement, and it’s given us skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs, fewer choices, and the cancellation of millions of people’s current health insurance coverage, directly contradicting the president’s promise that if you like your existing health insurance, you can keep it..."
According to the Committee's statement the subpoena requires HHS to produce documents related to technical problems with, the testing that went into the website and the number of people who have enrolled and attempted to enroll in federal exchanges through by 12:00 p.m. on November 13, 2013.  It noted that a document request was originally made in an October 10th letter co-signed by Chairman Issa and Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and reiterated in an October 24th letter that raised the possibility of a subpoena.

The Oversight Committee had made document requests previous to that on October 10th, 2013, and "...reiterated in an October 24th letter that raised the possibility of a subpoena, at which time Issa declared to Sebelius that:
"...It is clear that you and other high-ranking HHS officials either provided false testimony to Congress or did not know how badly the development of the was proceeding.  Either scenario, if accurate, is inexcusable and demands accountability from your department.  Your failure to provide Congress information that would shed additional light on these problems is a troubling indication that you are refusing to hold people accountable for this costly and failed enterprise..."
In a statement released by the Oversight Committee today, investigators revealed a response from Jim R. Esquea, Assistant Secretary for Legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services, in which he said that:
"...In the course of compiling and reviewing the documents ... we determined that some of [Senior HHS Executive] Ms. [Marilyn] Tavenner's potentially responsive emails might not be retrievable.  It appears that most, but not all, of the Administrator's email records were sent within HHS and therefore were likely saved within HHS records.  While we have not identified any specific emails that we will be unable to retrieve, it is possible that some emails may not be available to HHS ... In order to recover and produce as many of Administrator Tavennner's responsive documents as possible, HHS is searching the files of other individuals within the Department with whom the Administrator regularly corresponded and we are collecting those documents for review..."
Issa's retort:
"...Today’s news that a senior HHS executive destroyed emails relevant to a congressional investigation means that the Obama Administration has lost or destroyed emails for more than 20 witnesses, and in each case, the loss wasn’t disclosed to the National Archives or Congress for months or years, in violation of federal law...It defies logic that so many senior Administration officials were found to have ignored federal recordkeeping requirements only after Congress asked to see their emails. Just this week, my staff followed up with HHS, who has failed to comply with a subpoena from ten months ago. Even at that point, the administration did not inform us that there was a problem with Ms. Tavenner’s email history. Yet again, we discover that this Administration will not be forthright with the American people unless cornered..."

That was certainly the case with the IRS Lois Lerner documents, which suddenly seemed to appear after a Judge "cornered" the IRS with a court order to produce required documents.

Vanguard of Freedom

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