Congress

House Oversight leaders want answers on White House email

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) 

Rep. Elijah Cummings has questions about White House use of personal email accounts.

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wants answers on White House officials' reported use of private email accounts to conduct official business.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote a letter Sept. 25 to senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner asking about his use of a personal email account to conduct official government business.

Cummings also joined Oversight chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) in a Sept. 25 letter to White House Council Don McGahn seeking information on the use of personal email accounts by non-career officials, as well as the use of encrypted message applications. The letter also seeks any updates to White House policies on electronic messaging, social media and the preservation of records created on electronic platforms.

Politico first reported Kushner's use of a personal email account. The report also stated Kushner, along with his wife and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump, set up a private family domain for personal email use shortly before moving into the White House.

In response, Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, acknowledged to the New York Times the president's son-in-law had used the private account between January and August.

"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," writes Cummings.

This is not the first instance a member of Congress has sought answers regarding senior Trump White House officials allegedly using private accounts for government work.

In Feb., Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) asked about the use of email accounts, run on a system maintained by the Republican National Committee, by four senior White House officials, including Kushner.

In March, Cummings and former committee Chairman and current Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) inquired whether White House officials had used non-official email accounts to conduct official business.

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short responded a month later, stating, "There are no senior officials covered by the [Presidential Records Act] with multiple accounts." In that letter, Short did note that the White House IT system creates multiple addresses for users "for security and other reasons."

Use of a private email account is not necessarily improper, so long as staff comply with the Presidential Records Act guidelines, which compel covered White House officials who use a non-official email account for government business to copy those messages to a government system within 20 days to preserve recordkeeping.

Cummings requested Kushner to "exercise reasonable efforts" to identify, preserve and recover any records, and to make sure records are not deleted or altered in the future.

He also requested Kushner provide the email addresses for any accounts used to conduct White House business, the email addresses of anyone with whom he corresponded, as well as information on who set up and maintains security on the private family domain.

This article was updated Sept. 25. 

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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