Flashback: Rove Erases 22 Million White House Emails on Private Server at Height of U.S. Attorney Scandal – Media Yawns


Now that they’ve taken control of Congress, Republicans are wielding power much the same way they did in the Clinton era and for the six years afterward when they controlled the White House and Congress under George W. Bush: ineptly — examples: 1, 2 etc.

Then as now, it’s clear that the only thing Republicans do very well is inflame the media with bogus scandals — which is a handy way to distract attention from their ineptitude. They are doing this with their usual aplomb, and considerable success, in the matter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send emails.

Clinton has said she deleted about 50,000 emails that dealt with personal matters, citing her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral as examples. All the correspondence pertaining to official business was turned over to and archived by State. The deletion of the emails, though perfectly legal, has excited House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, who has announced plans to deploy House committees to investigate what might aptly be called Servergate.

Never mind that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, has said he used a system similar to Clinton’s — and never mind that in 2007 Karl Rove deleted 22 million emails from a private server in the Bush White House — a matter about which the Beltway media said little and Republicans in Congress, like Rep. John Boehner, said nothing.

Here is a brief refresher on the White House email scandal:

Not long after George W. Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, Rove, his top political aide, set up a private email server for use in the White House. The stated purpose of the system — the primary domain name on which was gwb43.com — was that it would be used exclusively for the sort of political correspondence that Bush and Rove were not permitted to do on the taxpayer’s dime.

Seven years later, Bush and Rove were embroiled in two competing scandals — the Valerie Plame scandal, in which operatives for Vice Pres. Dick Cheney, including Rove and Scooter Libby, were accused of unmasking Valerie Plame, a CIA specialist in the black market for weapons of mass destruction, for purely partisan reasons, and the U.S. Attorney purge, in which Rove’s political operation in the White House was accused of ordering Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to purge eight U.S. attorneys who were qualified prosecutors and replace them with political hacks with little or no prosecutorial experience.

Rove escaped prosecution in the Libby case, but Libby was convicted (Bush quickly commuted the sentence) on March 6, 2007, at the same time Bush and Rove were under fire for purging the U.S. attorneys. During the investigation, it came to light that Rove’s server had been used to send official, non-political emails — correspondence that was required by law to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act.

On April 12, 2007, Rove’s operation admitted that it had deleted at least 5 million emails from the server. In December 2009, technicians who had examined the server reported that the number of emails that had been deleted was far greater — 22 million.

What was in the emails? No one will ever know. It’s likely as not that there was incriminating evidence in the correspondence that tied Rove and others to the treasonous exposure of Agent Plame (which, at a minimum, was a violation of government security), the U.S. attorneys’ purge and perhaps other scandals, including the inquiry into charges that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff had used his entre with others in the GOP to bribe government officials. Abramoff was in prison serving the first year of his sentence when the email scandal broke.

If nothing else, this appears to be a prima facie case (or, rather, 22 million cases) of obstruction of justice. How serious is obstruction of justice? It’s the crime Pres. Richard Nixon was charged with by the House of Representatives in 1974 that prompted him to resign rather than face impeachment.

But what sort of evidence might have been lost in the 50,000 emails Hillary Clinton deleted? The insinuation from Republicans is that something dispositive about the Benghazi scandal might have been erased. It’s hard to guess what that might have been. What the GOP seems to be looking for in its eight investigations into Benghazi, so far, is a stand-down order issued by the State Department or the White House to the military that left the Benghazi consulate vulnerable to the attack that ensued. These Republicans know, of course, that the Secretary of State doesn’t have the authority to issue orders to the military.

Given that, there’s no question that the coverage of the Clinton email “scandal” is out of scale, but how does the incessant media coverage today stack up against the scandal seven years ago when Rove’s political operation in the White House erased 22 million emails many of which likely included evidence of serious crimes?

Last week, the fact-checking organization Politifact, which tends to skew to the right, compared coverage of the two scandals. Here’s it’s verdict:

We did a search through Lexis-Nexis, a research service that tracks news articles and transcripts, between March and May 2007. We found more than 125 transcripts from the major cable networks and National Public Radio that include “Republican National Committee” and “email” within 10 words of each other.

The Lexis-Nexis search also yielded more than 200 related newspaper articles across the country within the same time frame.

Let’s compare that to coverage of the Clinton controversy.

Since the story broke March 3, 2015 — two weeks ago — we found 204 cable and public radio transcripts that include “Clinton” and “email.” We also found 1,700 newspaper articles across the country.

That’s several times as many articles and transcripts about Clinton than there were about the Bush email controversy in a quarter of the time. It’s a rough measurement, but clearly there has been more media attention on Clinton’s use of private email than that of the White House staffers.

Even so, Politifact rated the claim that coverage of Clinton’s email deletions is out of scale compared with coverage of Rove’s in 2007 is “mostly false.”

Wait. What?

In the Rove scandal, there were 125 broadcast reports and 200 newspaper articles over three months about the millions of deleted emails. Today, in just two weeks there have been 200 broadcast reports and 1,700 newspaper articles about the 50,000 deleted emails.

And yet Politifact finds the assertion that there’s been more coverage of Clinton than there was of Rove to be “mostly false.” How did they do that?

Simple. Politifact keyed its verdict to a Fox pundit’s hyperbolic statement there was “zero coverage” of Rove’s scandal when it broke. So, yeah, it’s “mostly false” that there was “zero coverage.”

Republicans’ objective in using its lapdogs in the “liberal media” to exaggerate the Clinton emails controversy is to damage her image in advance of her run for the presidency. Polls show that their strategy is working — while Hillary Clinton remains the odds-on favorite among Democratic voters, her approval rating has slipped among all voters in polls released since the email deletions came to light.

At least Republicans are good at something.


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  • Aaron
    May 25, 2016 - 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Bush and Rove did something, so Hillary should get a pass.

    That’s not a compelling defense, even if it were true. But it’s NOT TRUE.

    Clinton SOLELY used personal email for official government business. And she did NOT have permission to do so.

    Oh, yeah, and there were LOTS of pesky classified emails.

    Not at all the same thing.

    But hey, Karl Rove should drop out of the presidential race anyway….oh wait, HE’S NOT RUNNING.

    • Madison
      May 25, 2016 - 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Karl Rove broke federal law — the Presidential Records Act — 22 million times. He should be in prison.

    • Jcs
      May 27, 2016 - 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Hillary had not violated any laws and has not violated national security. Even the State Department admitted that they didn’t enforce their own rules.

      Rove violated federal law and national security. And the GOP said “HO-HUM” …

      • Tom
        May 28, 2016 - 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Two wrongs don’t make what Hillary did right. And yes, she did violate national security rules for handling raw intelligence information!!!

      • donna
        July 7, 2016 - 2:03 pm | Permalink

        Wow, Jcs–you are EASY to fool…

    • Kenneth Olufs
      May 29, 2016 - 7:54 am | Permalink

      Aaron, good to know that your high level security clearance gives you privileged access to classified information, allowing you to make definitive statements of fact… that would otherwise be analyzed as pompous and erroneous conjecture.Your “opinion” means…. SQUAT!

    • Harold D. Plante
      May 29, 2016 - 8:30 am | Permalink

      Another example of selective observation, Aaron. Republicans come up with these “MATTER OF FACT” slanted conclusions that prove again how thin skinned y’all are when called out. GOPers want us to hold Pres. Obama and Sec. Clinton to higher standards than what the” right” is held to. Well, let it be known, in the eyes of history, the arrogance of the Republican party will live in infamy.
      The use of logic and paradox is supposed to be cunning? I’m not buying it!

      • donna
        July 7, 2016 - 2:05 pm | Permalink

        You seem to have the bassackwards! It is the Clintons who believe hat rules and laws do NOT pertai to them!!!

    • joseph logston
      July 4, 2016 - 11:06 am | Permalink

      Bush got in power and did this illegal crap on Karl Rove advice and blessings, as for these illegal wars for oil & profits that killed a whole lot of innocent people by their lying for wars, that will be found & found out, As the GOP party is just a bunch of Nazies and Elite sick money grabbers!!……… As I see that they want a bigger Nazi in powering over the US people again!!! Nazi leader Adolf Donald Drumpf!!

      • Jose
        July 5, 2016 - 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Bull shit

      • July 5, 2016 - 7:52 pm | Permalink

        Truth be told! The Trump followers are as ignorant as it gets too!
        Who would blindly vote for an egotistical bs artist, loser and hater of all who aren’t like him.
        Trump followers have proven themselves to be mindless, hateful, and don’t seem to mind the fact Trump has not said a thing about his policies or plans for our country once he is in office, other than the wall, and ” everything is gonna be huuuuge!” What a load of ignorant bs!
        The world is laughing their asses off at the delusional Trumpet, and his angry followers. How pathetic, and these clowns believe Trump is actually going to do something for them?
        Get real!

    • July 5, 2016 - 6:09 pm | Permalink

      You are correct, sir…Rove did not use the personal server to conduct official government business as the SECRETARY OF STATE!!!!!! Hillary conducted official government business on a personal server in order to exercise as much control as possible over her email correspondence….and I just love how the article makes it clear that Hillary turned over ALL official government emails and ONLY deleted personal emails related to family weddings and funerals….and we know this to be a fact because…..Hillary said so….official government business is conducted on government servers and networks…emails to Chelsea about the grand-kids are sent on your i-phone using any number of commercial or private domains.

    • Professor Q
      July 5, 2016 - 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Seriously? That’s your answer? And I guess we’ll all have to assume you work for the FBI and know more than your boss does. When you can come up with some solid evidence instead of spewing more media rhetoric then we might listen.

    • Cheryl
      July 5, 2016 - 11:21 pm | Permalink

      Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. all brought about the economic meltdown of America that rippled all across the world. They outed a CIA agent. They waged two wars based on LIES and fabricated intelligence and committed torture and war crimes, in addition to all the other corruption they were involved in. They DELETED over 22 MILLION EMAILS in their attempts to cover up their crimes. And YOU (idiot) are worried about Secretary Clinton …. considering all the witch hunts and fabricated scandals against her? All the waste of taxpayer $$$$ (YOUR MONEY TOO) to investigate BENGHAZI numerous times. The problem with this country is Republicans and total asshats like yourself.

      • Mary
        July 6, 2016 - 5:30 pm | Permalink

        Couldn’t have said it better!

    • Lisa Elliott
      July 6, 2016 - 8:34 am | Permalink

      Spot on.

    • July 6, 2016 - 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Government agencies were aware she was using her own server as she had informed them, she said this. Whichever agency(ies) knew and failed to caution her about security are at fault.

  • Michelle Coder
    May 27, 2016 - 1:21 am | Permalink

    Karl Rove should have been prosecuted for war crimes. This article proves nothing except Clinton and Rove share the same kind of deceptive, illegal behavior. Just because others did it, doesn’t make it right.

    • Polly Meulenbrg
      May 29, 2016 - 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Rove, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfkowitz, pick any name of “elected”
      Repubs at that time. Chaney’s Halliburton made profits in billions of dollars from no-bid contracts. Soldiers died in showers, poor body armour, poor mobile transports, supplied by Halliburton. But Chaney, Bush, Rice, Wolfie all did very well. Wasn’t illegal, at one time, entering civil sevice forbid self enrichment? We saw that with Phil and Wendy Gramm, no questions asked. Just get “elected” change any laws you wish, and you are set. What is this?! Bush won 2000 thru fraud helped by govenor bro, who already weaseled his way out of defrauding seniors and disabled in Florida, and spectacular fraud with his S&L at our expense, rewarded to rise as Gov and Presidental candidate! Soldiers returned, with symptoms denied by VA, only later revealed what Bush, Rove, etc, knew: exposure to unexploded uranium,
      HazMat dump sites, unclean water, dioxins, very unsafe vaccines, etc,
      Very profitable. But no government inquiry any time, only denials. Children born suffer horrific deaths and sickness that will exist for thousands of years from radiation, from Bosnia to Afghanistan. Bush followed orders and Chaney, with Rove led the pact. And they are still free creatures. Is this hw America will exist in future? Viet Nam was bad, but this is far worse.

  • John Gamboa
    May 27, 2016 - 5:36 am | Permalink

    Karl Rove is one of the most loathed people on the planet. If HRC ever wants to whine about how she should get away with using then scrubbing an extralegal server because he did, I might as well warn her that it will not work on me.

    • JBDC
      May 29, 2016 - 7:38 am | Permalink

      It has been proven the server was not scrubbed.

  • MTS
    May 27, 2016 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    PolitiFact did NOT rate “the claim that coverage of Clinton’s email deletions is out of scale” at all. They rated a claim that there was zero coverage of Bush’s email fiasco as “Mostly False”. You aren’t even close!

  • Jcs
    May 27, 2016 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Hillary broke no laws and did not violate national security. The State Department even admitted that they didn’t enforce their own rules.

    • Tom
      May 28, 2016 - 6:57 pm | Permalink

      Two wrongs don’t make what Hillary did right. And yes, she did violate national security rules for handling raw intelligence information!!!

  • Madison
    May 27, 2016 - 4:42 pm | Permalink

    So it’s wrong to justify Clinton’s email issues by noting that Rove did it too, only worse — he actually broke federal law 22 million times. But it seems perfectly all right to you to let Rove and Bush off the hook but demand that Clinton be guillotined.

    Seriously. Right wingers and extreme lefties need to get a grip.

    • Kenneth Olufs
      May 29, 2016 - 8:04 am | Permalink

      Two wrongs don’t make a right… but I can make a distinction between stealing a loaf of bread… and treason & murder. Bush, Cheney, Rove, Wolfowitz, Rice and others should all be held accountable for those crimes.

  • Brett Zink
    May 27, 2016 - 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Some of the comments here make me weep for our country/culture/species… Look at the Sec. of State of the past 15 years. How many of them also used private email servers? Go ahead, look. Look at the ones that have admitted they did the same thing. Look at the ones that Said Hillary did nothing wrong. Sweet jebus!

  • May 27, 2016 - 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Enough already. Republicans in Congress have messed things up royally, made the legislative branch ineffective and wasteful and time and time again tried to shift all the blame on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Despite being victimized from the very beginning of his Administration by finger-pointing R’s, President Obama has served with great success. Both he and his wife deserve appreciation from the American people. Yet many of them constantly display their ignorance by backing that clown named Trump. The same goes for Hillary Clinton. Allegations against her are inaccurate, embellished and deceitful. For America to make the progress we must make we need to kick the R’s out of office, return majority control in Congress to the D’s and elect our first woman president.

    • Rosie Day
      May 28, 2016 - 1:50 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree with you!! Why was this never an issue until Hillary used it, as usual. It has NOT been shown that she broke the law yet everyone wants to convict her. This Double Standard is so unjust. Did anyone see just how antiquated the State Department’s system is, and that it was hacked into? that is the reason so many Republicans and Democrats have used private emails. She loves our country and cares about the people. She has tried to make a difference since she was a young woman for children and woman in our country. She will be a awesome President!!

  • Maria
    May 28, 2016 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    Wrong is wrong. Cover up is cover up. No politicians should be above the law. The double standards are a disgusting display of corruption. Politicians send the message which says the can make the rules, break, bend, and twist the rules to fit their desires.

    • Rosie Day
      May 28, 2016 - 1:53 pm | Permalink

      It has NOT been proven that she broke any law, so lets be totally honest about it!! Innocent until proven guilty, isn’t that the LAW of the land?

      • GPH
        July 6, 2016 - 8:37 am | Permalink

        She LIED about everything involved with this scandal as Comey spelled out clearly. She and Bill are both corrupt. I just hope the Clinton Foundation case will have a more honest outcome. Get your liberal head out of the sand.

  • totalkaosdave
    May 28, 2016 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    My how intellectually dishonest this article is. The private server by Bush was used for political business, not government business. You see you can’t use government servers for political business. You might want to educate yourself. Hillary on the other hand, used her personal server to conduct government business. Yes, you can delete personal emails on your government system because the emails are saved in the system. All you are doing is deleting them from your government computer, not the system. With the private server, Hillary was able to delete anything she wanted because it was beyond the reach of government. This was a deliberate attempt to skirt the FOIA laws. She also lied when she said turned everything over. We now know she didn’t.
    Regarding the Valerie Plame issue, no one “outed” her. She was out. Richard Armitage spoke to the press. Scooter Libby was charged on perjury, not outing a CIA agent. Armitage wasn’t charged because Plame was already out as a CIA agent.
    Regarding Benghazi, perhaps when ALL emails are turned over, of course you know emails seem to keep turning up that were not turned over, the actual truth will come out…like the gun running Obama was doing from Benghazi to Syria.
    It’s very sad that liberals are either not interested in the truth or rely on sites like this to tell the truth, only to be shown to be lies and half-truths. It’s also sad liberals have invested such time and effort supporting and advocating these lies that when confronted with the truth, they turn violent.

    • JBDC
      May 29, 2016 - 7:48 am | Permalink

      If you believe the TWENTY-TWO MILLION emails deleted from the White House private server were all about politics and did not contain “government business,” I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. And if you continue to insist on believing that, who the heck was running the country if the there was TIME to rack up TWENTY-TWO MILLION emails NOT pertaining to “government business” on the private WH server over that short span of time??

  • Bertie
    May 28, 2016 - 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Why hasn’t Colin Powell’s name been mentioned?
    Did I read somewhere that the Pentagon computers had been hacked?? Hillary used a server installed for the former president. This is a Poison Campaign against Hillary. And rather than research the lies extended by that SOB that damn near got a government employee assassinated. He did care at all that Mrs Plame was put in jeopardy by his bulls***!! Traitor!!

  • JakeTruth
    May 29, 2016 - 7:52 am | Permalink

    Clinton is the only Secretary of State to run a homebrew server out of her own home. So your statement that “Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, has said he used a system similar to Clinton’s” is incorrect. Clinton already has record low favorability ratings and the public by and large mistrusts her. This sort of obfuscation and shading of the truth will only hurt her more.

  • Ted Michols
    May 29, 2016 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Hilliary and so many of the groups that support her are whack jobs. Forget about the servers. The Clintons seem to always be in some type of trouble. The smartest person on stage seemed to be Sanders. He really knew how to debate with her. America is tired of the Bushes and Clintons, we deserve better.

    • Chredon
      May 29, 2016 - 3:43 pm | Permalink

      The only reason that the Clinton’s always seem to be in some kind of trouble is because the GOP is always throwing out bogus attacks on them that invariably turn out to be nothing. Don’t equate being the target of the GOP attack dogs as guilt.

      • Wayne Frazer
        July 4, 2016 - 5:17 pm | Permalink

        Are you kidding me? Did the GOP put Monica’s lips on Bill’s penis? Did they authorize the $850K payoff to Paula Jones? Was it them that got her fined after she lied during her health-care debacle? I can tell you what the GOP helped them out on – three strikes and work for welfare! You know, those great initiatives that threw millions of poor people into jail and forced mothers to work at Tyson Foods and leave their kids at home? They sound like real Democrats, huh? For God’s sake, Trump is an idiot and a fool, but Hillary and Bill are far, far worse. Have the guts to say no to BOTH parties.

  • harry lunn
    May 30, 2016 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    You know when the best excuse you’ve got is “they did it too” or “they did it first”, you really have no excuse.
    George Bush and Dick Cheney started an illegal war, that doesntmake it okay for anyone else to do.
    There was no excuse for Rove,
    There was no excuse for Powell,
    There is no excuse for Clinton.

    • Jon
      May 31, 2016 - 7:28 am | Permalink

      But Bush, Cheney, Rove and Powell were not even criticized, much less investigated for months and months. What Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell did was not illegal — they broke an administrative rule. Rove broke the federal Presidential Records Act 22 million times, and the media and the GOP who controlled Congress then said nothing.

  • Jen
    May 30, 2016 - 12:58 pm | Permalink

    So they can’t estimate so they throw a random 22million number out of the air? Comparing a private server for non govt business and what Clinton did is dishonest at best.

  • Joe
    June 7, 2016 - 2:49 pm | Permalink

    22 million? Hmmm…..there are 1440 minutes in a day.. let’s say you sent an email every minute of every day from morning to night; that would total be 525,600 emails per year….Bush was in office for 8 years…..525,600 x 8 = 4,204,800 emails. I detect a lack of credibility on the part of the author.

    • Jon
      June 8, 2016 - 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Seriously, Joe? You don’t know how spam works? They sent hundreds of emails a minute using a bulk email system.

      • Wayne Frazer
        July 4, 2016 - 5:19 pm | Permalink

        Okey doke, let’s say they did – could you tell me what the hell fundraising emails have to do with national security? Because that’s what would have been sent out as spam, chief, not backdoor deals with foreign despots.

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  • Mindy
    July 5, 2016 - 3:05 pm | Permalink

    So how do we get together? All I see is people arguing. One side against the other. When can we say ENOUGH, and find a way towards a sensible, intelligent pattern towards unity? Being played just isn’t my thing, so can we think grassroots?

  • Joe
    July 5, 2016 - 4:18 pm | Permalink

    If the story about Rove was true…lets do some math. 22,000,000 emails deleted. That means he actually received more than that. Quite popular I guess. He was WHCOS for 18 months. He deleted 1,222,222 emails per month, which is 40,182 per day, which is 1674 per hour, which is 30 per minute, or 1 every 2 seconds. He would have had to spend his entire 24 day, without sleeping deleting emails. I am not saying the guy was not a douche (nothing against actual douches), but check his delete button finger—no calluses, you have to let him off.

    • Mary
      July 6, 2016 - 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Do you honestly think HE personally deleted them? Probably not. But he sure did have several people working for him doing just that in all probability. In all liklihood, many to most were political spam, but it was still illegal. There’s no way to tell how much was or should have been classified. The thing is, it totally got swept under the carpet. I believe that is the point the article attempts to make.

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  • July 5, 2016 - 8:08 pm | Permalink

    The ignorant comments here, and most anywhere by Trump followers are as juvenile and pathetic as the Trumpet spewing POS they would have the audacity to vote for.
    Trump followers are nothing more than loud mouthed racists with as little, or possibly less political knowledge than the reckless, irresponsible loser, who behaves like a spoiled child. He hasn’t said a damn thing about his policies, in fact he has none. All he has said is, ” it’s going to be huuuuge!”
    Yay, a huge loss! Good luck with being part of histories laughing stock. The world is watching, and the Trumpet and his supporters will never live this down. The only good to come of Trump running is it has brought the haters and scumbags, out of their closets. And yes, some already were out, just waiting to raise some redneckerson hell.

  • Alejandro
    July 5, 2016 - 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Rove should be indicted, convicted and then drawn and quartered for the things he did, but his email/server issue would be the least of his crimes. He is as dirty as they come.

  • Tom
    July 6, 2016 - 7:25 am | Permalink

    You’ve got to go all the way back to Valerie Plame?
    Wasn’t she a low level hack who never made it undercover, but kept the label as a status symbol?
    And then we have the Exchange server upgrade, which indeed lost some mails, in a hidden folder called Exchage upgrades on the server they upgraded. So an automated process moving spam mail is the same as Clinton wiping a hard drive post subpoena.

    When you try to make comparisons to remove guilt, first of all, that the tactic a 5 year old takes. Secondly, you need to get closer to likewise malfeasance.

    This is old partisan whining regurgitated here for some logical talking points because the FBI director said she did some criminal things.

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  • Deb blew
    July 6, 2016 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    Wwwhhhaaattttt? Is this true? The very shame of what a republican doing even more of the same. They all are crooked. Both of our 2 main parties. Get over it. All of you.

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