Records Management

Democrats seek answers on private email use at the White House

Shutterstock image: digital record infrastructure. 

Two Democratic senators are seeking answers about the nongovernmental e-mail accounts that high-ranking members of the Trump administration reportedly used during their first days in the White House.

The e-mail accounts, first reported by Newsweek in late January, were on a Republican National Committee-maintained system, and reportedly belonged to Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner. They accounts were subsequently deleted.

In a letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn that was released on Jan. 7, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) state that such use could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act, which precludes immediate staff and advisers to the president from creating or sending "a Presidential record using a non-official electronic messaging account."

McCaskill is the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Carper is also sits on the committee and previously served as the panel's top Democrat.

If a non-official e-mail account is used to conduct government business, the statute requires covered employees to copy those messages to a government system within 20 days to preserve presidential record-keeping.

The messages on the private accounts have been deleted by the RNC, which "did not indicate whether or not any of these e-mail accounts were used to conduct government business," the letter states.

The letter asks McGahn to provide details on which White House officials used the RNC accounts, and whether any senior aids continue to use accounts on that system. Carper and McCaskill also want clarification as to how the White House intends to ensure compliance with the Presidential Records Act, and instructed McGahn to share a copy of the policies and procedures provided to Trump's staff to ensure federal compliance.

Use of a private email account is not necessarily improper -- and senior White House staff can be involved in political matters that do not belong in official government accounts. But in the past, use of similar RNC-run accounts raised suspicions that White House officials under President George W. Bush were deliberately trying to skirt the Presidential Records Act.

The letter seeks a response by Feb. 10.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

Featured

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

  • Comment
    Blue Signage and logo of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Doing digital differently at VA

    The Department of Veterans Affairs CIO explains why digital transformation is not optional.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.