Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill will be scrutinizing Ivanka Trump’s personal email use in the White House in light of new revelations that she sent hundreds of messages about government business from that account last year.
On Tuesday, the Republican chairmen of Senate and House oversight committees — as well as a top House Democrat who will be wielding a gavel when his party takes power in January — called for the White House to provide more information about the email account and the nature of the messages President Donald Trump’s daughter exchanged.
The moves renewed Republican-led congressional probes that had languished since last year when reports by Politico revealed that Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and other White House officials had been using private email for government purposes in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act and other federal record-keeping laws.
The issue resurfaced this week when The Washington Post reported that the president’s daughter, while a top White House adviser, sent hundreds of emails about government business from a personal email account last year. The emails were sent to White House aides, Cabinet members and Ivanka Trump’s assistants, many in violation of public records rules, according to The Post.
The Washington Post also reported on Tuesday that Fox News, which spent months attacking Hillary Clinton for using a private email server during the 2016 presidential election, only devoted twenty-five seconds to covering the Ivanka Trump report Tuesday. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. writes in The Post, "The information was one of several news tidbits relayed to viewers of “Fox & Friends” by Jillian Mele, an early-morning host, and focused on Ivanka Trump’s lawyer “slamming a report.”"
The report prompted Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, the outgoing chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, to send letters to the White House requesting a written response and briefing. They are asking for the White House to provide an accounting of the official emails exchanged on Ivanka Trump’s personal account and to certify that the emails had been preserved according with federal law.
Gowdy is also asking the White House to disclose whether any emails contained sensitive or classified information.
The action came the same day Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the likely incoming chairman of the House Oversight panel, said he would pressure Trump’s administration to turn over records about the use of private email for public business by Ivanka Trump, Kushner and other senior officials.
“My goal is to prevent this from happening again — not to 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.”
In comments to reporters, the president, who has spent years railing against Clinton’s use of private email for public business while secretary of state, sought to downplay — and differentiate — his daughter’s email use from his former opponent’s.
“They aren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton,” Trump said, adding: “What Ivanka did, it’s all in the presidential records. Everything is there.”
A spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, didn’t dispute the Post report. The spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said no classified information was transmitted in the messages, no emails were deleted and the emails have since been “retained” in conformity with records laws. He also said Ivanka Trump did not set up a private server for the account, which he said was “never transferred or housed at Trump Organization.”
Mirijanian said that while transitioning into the government and before she received ethics guidance about preserving government records, Ivanka Trump “sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family.”
“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,” he said. He did not say which congressional leaders were briefed.
The Senate Homeland Security and House Oversight investigations into private email were launched in 2017. That October, the White House dispatched counsel’s office lawyers to brief the committees. But the attorneys refused to identify any officials who had used private email for official business.
At the time, the White House lawyers told the House committee they couldn’t provide additional information on specific employees while an internal review was under way, according to a letter from Cummings. The White House has since not shared the findings of that review with Congress.
The discovery of the extent of Ivanka Trump’s email use was prompted by public records requests from the liberal watchdog group American Oversight. The group’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a statement that “The president’s family is not above the law,” and he called on Congress to investigate.
“For more than two years, President Trump and senior leaders in Congress have made it very clear that they view the use of personal email servers for government business to be a serious offense that demands investigation and even prosecution, and we expect the same standard will be applied in this case,” he said.
The emails the group uncovered include correspondence between Ivanka Trump and Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.