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White House Email Trail Grows Cold with Death of Bush IT Expert
by Rebecca Abrahams
December 22, 2008

How many licks does it take to get to the Tootise Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know...

For those of you who remember the famous 1969 animated Tootsie Roll commercial -- the wise old owl's line is indeed applicable to the missing White House emails -- the world may never know.

Unfortunately, this holds true more than ever with the untimely death of Bush IT guru Mike Connell. Connell was killed this past Friday while attempting to land his private plane three miles outside Akron-Canton Airport. Connell, 45, was the only soul onboard the aircraft. The accident is under investigation.

The Associated Press reported Connell's death with three brief paragraphs, noting that Connell:

"was a Republican media consultant who helped operate campaign Web sites for President Bush and former presidential nominee John McCain."

The AP failed to mention that Connell was also the chief architect of George W. Bush election websites including GeorgeWBush.com and GWB43.com -- the primary email account used by Karl Rove during his tenure as Senior White House Advisor. Connell's company, GovTech Solutions, was responsible for building and managing congressional email servers and firewalls, including websites for the House Judiciary Committee, Financial Services, Ways and Means and Administration Committees. Connell also managed the servers for former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell in 2004.

Mike Connell had also been subpoenaed to testify in an Ohio lawsuit regarding his knowledge of vote rigging and the outsourcing of the vote count to Smart Tech servers in Chatanooga, Tennessee before they were rerouted back to Blackwell's office during the 2004 election. The same SmartTech servers were also used to run Connell's GeorgeWBush.com and GWB43.com websites.

Ohio attorneys Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis were banking on Connell's testimony to substantiate their racketeering case against Karl Rove for alleged criminal wrongdoing in the 2004 election.

In a telephone interview on August 2, 2008, Arnebeck told me:

Mike Connell comes into play because he has been a common instrument in many facets of Rove's activity that we see as a criminal enterprise. He comes into play in Florida in work in 2000 and it is not clear to me what he is doing. But if you are in the State system, you've got a strategic asset to be in the system during an election and whether that is in terms of any of this Choicepoint business or any vote counting or registration data base, I don't know the answer to it but he was in the system. In 2004 he was doing web and server hosting in Chatanooga, Tennesee for the Ohio vote in the general election of 2004.

Arnebeck added:

Connell, in an oversight capacity of data processing and is in a position to tell us as a witness how things relate to another and to tell us where there may have been opportunities where corrupt activity may have been in play.

With respect to Connell's knowledge about the missing emails, Arnebeck referred to Connell's 2006 meeting with cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore. Arnebeck said, "My understanding is that there was there was a conversation in which Mr. Connell asked about data destruction and the conversation was terminated when Spoonamore said 'if you're talking about White House emails, I will not talk about this -- discussion is over.' Connell then knowing that destruction would be illegal -- may have proceeded to destroy, although I do not know that, it could be that he went back to Rove or an intermediary to say that it would create a legal problem and Rove would then have gotten someone else to take care of data destruction. We just don't know."

One thing is certain, Arnebeck was concerned about Connell's security and said:

One of the people we're working with received a tip from someone who appeared to be credible that Rove had threatened Connell that if he did not take the fall for what happened in Ohio and keep Rove out of it, that his wife (Heather) would be prosecuted for having crossed the line for some kind of lobbying laws. And one of the people with whom we are consulting made inquiries sufficient to satisfy him that this is a credible tip and threat seems to be in play and on that basis I took steps I believe appropriate to try and protect a person we have already publicly identified as key witness against harm and threats and put Mr. Rove on notice that we don't intend to have any witness intimated by him.

One of the steps Arnebeck was referring to was a July 24, 2008 email to US Attorney General Michael Mukasey warning of Rove's threats against Connell:

Thursday, July 24, 2008 1:50 PM
Dear Attorney General Mukasey:

We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to "take the fall" for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations. This appears to be in response to our designation of Rove as the principal perpetrator in the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim with respect to which we issued document hold notices last Thursday to you and to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.

See: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6189 and http://www.archive.org/details/ElectionFraudInOhioCourtCase.

I have informed court chambers and am in the process of informing the Ohio Attorney General's and US Attorney's offices in Columbus for the purpose, among other things, of seeking protection for Mr. Connell and his family from this reported attempt to intimidate a witness.

Concurrently herewith, I am informing Mr. Conyers and Mr. Kucinich in connection with their Congressional oversight responsibilities related to these matters.

Because of the serious engagement in this matter that began in 2000 of the Ohio Statehouse Press Corps, 60 Minutes, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, C-Span and Jim VandeHei, and the public's right to know of gross attempts to subvert the rule of law, I am forwarding this information to them, as well.

Cliff Arnebeck, Attorney
cc: Robert Fitrakis, Esq.
Henry Eckhart, Esq

Heather Connell has not returned my call but Arnebeck says the family is publicly denying any foul play or knowledge of threats against Connell or his family members. However, Arnebeck points out, Connell may have kept things to himself in order to protect his loved ones.

Connell's tragic death has dealt a real blow to Arnebeck's lawsuit. In an email dated today, Arnebeck told me he asked Dave Margolis, the Justice Department's top career organized crime fighter to "make sure the best resources are used in the investigation of the crash."

With the loss of a key witness, it's unclear whether Arnebeck's lawsuit will reach trial. But there may be still a way to determine Karl Rove's involvement in the missing White House emails and the US Attorney Purge -- President-elect Barack Obama could demand the backup tapes from the Secret Service.

Posted: December 29, 2008

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