Shortly before Mitt Romney departed the governor’s office, 11 of his top aides purchased 17 state-issued hard drives, purging the Romney administration’s email records in advance of his presidential campaign. The move has no precedent among modern Massachusetts governors, including Romney’s recent Republican predecessors.

Late last week, Romney refused to explain the missing hard drives, and when asked why they were purchased, the Republican would only say his aides “all followed the law exactly as it’s written.” That, of course, wasn’t the question.

Today, as Alex Seitz-Wald noted, Romney offered a rather amazing explanation during an interview with the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire.

“Well, I think in government we should follow the law. And there has never been an administration that has provided to the opposition research team, or to the public, electronic communications. So ours would have been the first.”

Wait, what?

Let me get this straight. Romney is admitting, on the record and on video, that his team purchased government hard drives and deleted untold thousands of emails in order to keep official correspondence hidden? He was worried about opposition researchers? That’s Romney’s defense?

I can only imagine how devastating those emails must have been.

This is, by the way, the same Republican campaign that issued a memo last week attacking the Obama White House for having “turned its back on his campaign promises of openness and transparency.”

That was last week. This week, Romney is comfortable admitting that he and his team bought 17 hard drives so he could keep officials’ email correspondence hidden from the public because it might have proved politically embarrassing.


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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.