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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner: ‘Delete this email.’

Boom.  Quickly: CMS means Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Marilyn Tavenner is the person who runs that agency for Health & Human Services; and the subordinate is Julie Bataille, who was and is CMS’s Director of Communications.  So that sets the scene for this:

The day after a CMS official informed the Committee about the potential loss of your emails, HHS provided the Committee with additional documents related to our review of HealthCare.gov.  One of the e-mails in this production shows that you directed a subordinate to delete an email communication featuring a number of White House representatives.  This e-mail is an October 5, 2013, communication in which you forwarded a discussion with White House representatives to the Director of Communications for CMS with the message: “Please delete this email-but please see if we can work on call script.” This contradicts the letter sent to the National Archives, which explained that your practice was to instruct subordinates to retain copies of e-mails. A copy of this e-mail is attached.

The email in question is this one. Short version: it appears that there was an issue over improper training of customer service personnel with regard to signing people up for Obamacare. Not the most horrific thing in the world, except that it was taking place right smack dab in the middle of the utterly disastrous Obamacare rollout, and every mistake made there would come back and detonate, right on the laps of anybody trying to implement that utter disaster of a policy. So apparently Marilyn Tavenner decided to sweep it under the rug, lose the paper trail, and try to get the specific problem fixed before somebody noted.

A real shame that Step One of that plan is maybe a violation of federal law, huh? Sharyl Attkisson:

The instruction appears significant for several reasons: First, the email to be deleted included an exchange between key White House officials and CMS officials. Second, the email was dated October 5, 2013, five days into the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Third, federal law requires federal officials to retain copies of –not delete– email exchanges. And fourth, the document to be deleted is covered under Congressional subpoena as well as longstanding Freedom of Information requests made by members of the media…

I know, I know: it seems such a trivial issue to risk jail time over – but it always seems to work out that way, though. For some reason, the really risky stuff is usually also the more piddling stuff. I don’t know why that is, sorry.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

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