Sherrod firing: emails reveal White House role
The Obama administration has released nearly 2000 pages of documents that document communications between the USDA and the West Wing.
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Mather answers, telling Cherlin that Sherrod had been placed on administrative leave. "I guess some folks over there are circling wagons," Mather says, referring to the White House.Skip to next paragraph
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At the same time, Valerie Green of the White House presidential personnel office was emailing the USDA's White House liaison, Kevin Washo, asking him to loop her in, "Please. Please. Please."
Washo emails back to her, "I tried calling you."
In a separate email exchange with Green, Washo asked for records the White House might have on Sherrod, who was a political appointee. Green says she is working on it. Washo replies: "Let me know what counsel says so we can be decisive on this."
In a later email, Green says, "I still think we need the rest of the speech if we can get it."
Despite those concerns, USDA officials extracted the resignation from Sherrod that evening. In an email, she offered her resignation but put the Obama administration "on notice that I will get the whole story out." The next day, Sherrod appeared on numerous television news programs, saying she was unfairly asked to leave.
The email exchanges confirm what White House and Agriculture Department officials acknowledged in background interviews in the weeks after the incident — that the White House was more involved in the immediate response to the video of Sherrod's remarks than officials initially let on. Several emails detail White House and USDA calls to members of Congress, civil rights groups and Vilsack the night Sherrod was fired.
No one stepped in to stop Vilsack from telling his subordinates to get Sherrod to resign. But it's clear that the White House kept itself in the loop on the decision to oust her.
"We're good with this version on this end. Counsel has cleared the language," White House cabinet communications director Tom Gavin said in an email to the Agriculture Department's Mather after Mather sent him Vilsack's initial statement on Sherrod's firing.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday repeated the administration's statement that the decision to oust Sherrod was USDA's alone.
"The emails confirm what we said at the time, which is that the White House had no involvement in the decision made regarding Ms. Sherrod's employment, her firing, but were made aware of the decision that had been made by the Department of Agriculture," Carney said.
Many of the newly released emails are blacked out, citing laws that allow the government to withhold information that shows the "deliberative process." Others concerning Sherrod's personnel records also are blacked out. The Agriculture Department released an earlier batch of emails in October 2010.
Sherrod has a defamation lawsuit pending in federal court against Breitbart, who died unexpectedly last week. She also sued one of Breitbart's colleagues and an unidentified defendant who she says gave Breitbart the video. Breitbart was trying to get the suit dismissed when he died.