March 04, 2004,
As the investigation into the Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic strategy memos reaches a climax, National Review Online has obtained two new Democratic documents that were downloaded by a Republican staffer sometime in the period from late 2001 to spring 2003.
Ironically, the two documents, apparently written by an aide to Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, concern a Republican memo that had been mistakenly sent to Democrats. In November, 2001, a top aide to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch sent a strategy e-mail to several other Republicans. One of the intended recipients was a Hatch staffer whose last name was Johnson. But instead of going to the Republican Johnson, the memo went to a woman named Olati Johnson, who was a top Kennedy aide.
Olati Johnson forwarded the GOP memo to several colleagues. Republican staffers asked her to delete the memo, since it had been sent to her in error. It is not clear whether the GOP aides made that request before or after Johnson had sent the memo around, but in any case, Democrats eventually gave the GOP document to the press.
The two newly obtained Democratic documents are fact sheets written for Sen. Kennedy so he could answer possible inquiries about the matter. One document is a set of talking points which says, "There was no impropriety, as the information sent to [Olati Johnson] was not confidential or privileged information." The talking points also say that any Republican complaints about the leak should be characterized as a GOP attempt to change the subject from the strategy discussed in the original, misdirected e-mail.
Republicans do not claim that Democrats stole the e-mail after all, it was a Republican who mistakenly sent it to Democrats. (Indeed, a Republican staffer made a handwritten note suggesting that in the future they label e-mails "privileged and/or confidential.) But some in the GOP do believe that the Democrats' talking point arguments that the original e-mail was not confidential or privileged, and that the leak of it was not as important as the behavior it described undermine current Democratic positions in the leak controversy. In the current matter, Democrats are arguing that their memos were confidential, and are denying charges that their calls for an investigation are an attempt to change the subject from the behavior described in the memos.
The two Democratic documents were in the possession of Manuel Miranda, the former aide to Hatch and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who resigned under pressure during the memo investigation. Miranda says he discovered the memos Wednesday night while going through some unrelated papers. Miranda's lawyer forwarded copies of the documents to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office Thursday morning.