House Dems to probe Ivanka, Kushner over use of personal email accounts
House Oversight Committee Democrats will investigate Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, in connection with use of private email accounts for official White House business, relaunching a 2017 probe into whether officials in President Trump’s administration are complying with the Presidential Record Act.
Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is expected to become chairman at the beginning of the 116th Congress in January, said Tuesday he wants more information about Ivanka Trump’s use of a personal email account while conducting official administration business.
“We launched a bipartisan investigation last year into White House officials’ use of private email accounts for official business, but the White House never gave us the information we requested,” Cummings said in a statement to Fox News. “We need those documents to ensure that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and other officials are complying with federal records laws and there is a complete record of the activities of this Administration.”
In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, President Trump addressed the email dustup, among other topics. “Ivanka did some emails. They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton, they weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton,’ the president said, adding that Ivanka “wasn’t’ doing anything to hide her emails, They’re all in presidential records,”
The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump, who serves as her father’s senior adviser, may have violated federal records rules by using a personal email account to contact “White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistant” concerning government matters, as well as her personal travel arrangements. The report, though, does not indicate any of the “hundreds” of emails contained classified or sensitive government information.
The committee’s probe began in March 2017 under the joint leadership of Cummings and former committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor. The committee subpoenaed information about Kushner, Trump’s husband, and his private email use. The White House, last year, claimed they couldn’t share details because they were conducting an internal review, according to the committee.
Kushner had a private email account on the domain “ijkfamily.com,” according to the report. While Trump and Kushner had a private domain name—giving them a personalized dot-com email address—they reportedly did not maintain their own server hardware to physically store the emails sent to it.
“My goal is to prevent this from happening again—not turn this into a spectacle the way Republicans went after Hillary Clinton,” Cummings said. “My main priority as chairman will be to focus on the issues that impact Americans in their everyday lives.”
The House Oversight Committee had jurisdiction over the years-long investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while conducting business as secretary of state. Republicans extensively investigated Clinton’s move to communicate classified information on an unsecured server and used it against her during the 2016 presidential election. Former FBI Director James Comey said Clinton’s behavior was “extremely careless,” but did not recommend any charges against her.
The committee has jurisdiction over all records and transparency laws—Cummings authored an update in 2014 that was signed into law which requires that every federal employee, including the president, must forward any message about official business sent using a private account to the employee’s official account within 20 days.
A source familiar with the committee’s investigation into Trump and Kushner told Fox News that according to statements from their attorneys, it appeared that the two White House officials did not comply with the law.
But Trump’s lawyer blasted the “misinformation being peddled” against his client and emphasized the distinctions in this case versus Clinton’s.
“To address misinformation being peddled about Ms. Trump’s personal email, she did not create a private server in her house or office, there was never classified information transmitted, the account was never transferred or housed at Trump Organization, no emails were ever deleted, and the emails have been retained in the official account in conformity with records preservation laws and rules,” said Peter Mirijanian, the spokesperson for Trump’s ethics lawyer Abbe Lowell.
He added: “When concerns were raised in the press 14 months ago, Ms. Trump reviewed and verified her email use with White House Counsel and explained the issue to congressional leaders.”
The Clinton investigation found that 22 of the emails the former secretary of state held on her private server contained top secret information, and nearly 2,100 emails contained some form of classified information. Approximately 31,000 emails were also deleted—and never recovered –from Clinton’s server following a congressional subpoena. Because Clinton owned, operated, and maintained the private server, investigators faced additional challenges in seeking to recover that information.
Other government officials have dealt with the consequences of using a personal email account—Comey used a private account to “conduct unclassified FBI business,” according to the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz, which he found to be “inconsistent with Department policy.”
Horowitz also revealed that former FBI agent Peter Strzok used his personal email account for government business. Most notably, Horowitz wrote that Strzok forwarded an email to his personal account regarding a proposed search warrant for former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop computer. Horowitz wrote that the email on Strzok’s personal account contained information “that appears to have been under seal at the time” in federal court
Strzok was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation last year after Horowitz’s office discovered anti-Trump text messages between him and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Strzok was fired from the bureau this summer, and Page left her post in May.
Fox News’ Gregg Re and Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.