House Democratic investigators are launching a congressional probe of Jared Kushner’s use of a private email for work purposes, a development that threatens to escalate the Russia-related controversies already surrounding President Donald Trump’s son in-law.
Top House Oversight and Government Reforming Committee Democrat Elijah Cummings sent a letter to Kushner, a White House senior adviser, asking him to preserve all his personal emails. The Maryland Democrat also suggested he will eventually request all copies of work correspondence that passed through Kushner’s personal account.
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“Before requesting copies or calling for the public release of all official emails you sent or received on your personal email account, I first request that you preserve all official records and copies of records in your custody or control and that you provide the information requested below,” Cummings wrote. “Your actions in response to the preservation request and the information you provide in response to this letter will help determine the next steps in this investigation.”
POLITICO reported Sunday that Kushner and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, created a private family domain and had been using the personal email to communicate with top White House officials in early 2017. Kushner’s attorney confirmed the report, suggesting the messages totaled fewer than 100 from January through August.
Democrats, however, are seeking more information about their content.
Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) declined to sign onto the letter, according to a panel Democratic source. Gowdy’s office did not immediately return a request for comment. But the committee has jurisdiction over record-keeping laws, which require all work correspondence to be completed on government accounts subject to Freedom of Information Act document requests.
Hill Republicans grilled Hillary Clinton for using a personal email server while leading the State Department, investigating the matter for months. Trump also suggested she be criminally charged, though the FBI found no criminal wrongdoing. His campaign rallies often include cheers of “lock her up” since some of her messages contained classified information.
Cummings’ letter highlights Republicans’ actions surrounding Clinton, seeking to pressure them to join his inquiry or risk looking hypocritical. Cummings quotes Gowdy, in a March 19, 2015 letter concerning Clinton’s actions, arguing the public “has a right to access public records” and “to certainty that no classified or sensitive information was placed at risk of compromise.”
One Republican investigative congressional source told POLITICO that Capitol Hill Republicans won’t be able to ignore the matter. They’re privately hoping Kushner’s attorney was correct that there were only fewer than 100 emails sent and received on his personal account. That would suggest, the source argued, that Kushner’s email wasn’t created to dodge federal record keeping laws — particularly if he was simultaneously using a work account and forwarding those emails to his work email address.
Kushner is already under the microscope for attending a June 2016 meeting with Kremlin allies promising dirt on Clinton. He also met with top Russian bank officials during the transition and admitted to omitting numerous meetings with foreign leaders from his security clearance form.
Cummings, in his letter, noted that he and former Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) this spring sent a letter asking the White House whether any top officials used a non-official email for government business. On April 11, White House legislative liaison Marc Short responded saying “there are no senior officials covered by the [Presidential Records Act] with multiple accounts.”
“This statement appears to be inaccurate,” Cummings wrote, adding: “Although it is possible that Mr. Short was referring to senior officials with multiple official governmental email accounts and that he did not know about your personal email account at the time he wrote this letter to the Committee.”
During a White House press conference Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Kushner’s use of private email was “to my knowledge, very limited.”
“White House Counsel has instructed all White House staff to use their government email for official business, and only use that email,” she said.
Asked if counsel had reminded them of these rules recently, she added: “I think we get instructed on this one pretty regularly.”