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Romney again defends disposal of Mass. governor documents

Michael Dwyer/AP

Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a town hall event Saturday in Peterborough, N.H.

By NBC's Jo Ling Kent

PETERBOROUGH, NH -- Facing increased scrutiny, Republican GOP front-runner Mitt Romney defended his administration's controversial decision to purchase hard drives and erase emails upon his leaving the Massachusetts' governor's office in 2007, saying he and his aides followed the law "and then some."

Romney claimed that under Massachusetts law, there is "no provision that requires the governor's office or Legislature to provide any information for the archives" and that his administration "voluntarily decided to do something that is not required by law."

He made a similar defense Friday.

Romney was campaigning in New Hampshire while most of his rivals, including newly minted front-runner Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, were at a Des Moines, Iowa, forum sponsored by the Family Leader group. Romney, who quietly opened an Iowa headquarters this week, plans to campaign there Wednesday.

In a Saturday press conference in which he responded to a Boston Globe story, he said that he and his staff elected to assemble 700 boxes of documents and provided them to the state archives in an "unprecedented" move.

Romney went on to defended his aides' disposing of documents and purchasing of hard drives, citing that there might have been confidential information including medical records, resumes from job applicants and personal information on the devices.

"Those are confidential of course... putting it in the public domain would be violating their trust," Romney told reporters.

However, Romney gave no indication that he knew of any specific aides having such information on their workplace computers.

In what seemed like a circular answer, Romney explained his reasoning. "The reason I presume you would make sure if you're not going to make something public, you in effect don't make it public. By having computers with that information on it, why would you make it public? Which may well be a privileged, confidential medical-in-nature [item] that would not be appropriate to be in the public domain."

When asked by NBC News how transparent a potential Romney White House would be in light of his past performance and recent calls for transparency from the Obama administration, Romney only said, "I would anticipate while I have not been in federal office ... we would do what's required by the law and then some."

With the Jan. 10 primary quickly approaching and new threats to his frontrunner status, the Romney campaign appears to be doubling down on its Granite State strategy, having made a last-minute addition to the campaign schedule with a rally Sunday in Nashua. On Monday, Romney is scheduled to address employees at BAE Systems, a major New Hampshire employer.

As for when Granite Staters can expect Romney to begin television advertising, Romney kept his cards close to his chest. "As we get closer we will go up on the air," he said. "I wouldn't be expecting to wait weeks and weeks; it has got to be coming relatively soon."