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An expert recently described to Business Insider one way in which the controversy surrounding Jared Kushner’s use of private email mirrors Hillary Clinton’s email misstep – and it was something that led President Donald Trump to regularly call for Clinton to be prosecuted.
The expert drew the comparison after the publication of a Senate Intelligence Committee letter to Kushner, a senior White House adviser, and his lawyer. That letter, which appeared to be accidentally forwarded by Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, to an email prankster and then provided to CNN, came after the revelation that Kushner had set up a private email account during the transition period and used it while serving in the White House.
It was the first the committee had learned of Kushner’s use of private email to conduct official government business, though Kushner’s lawyer said the adviser sent or received about 100 such government-related emails on the account. Kushner did not disclose the account, which Politico reported he used to communicate with top White House officials such as the former chief of staff Reince Priebus and the former chief strategist Steve Bannon, to the committee during an interview this summer.
“The committee was concerned to learn of this additional email account from the news media, rather than from you, in your closed staff interview,” the committee chairman Richard Burr and vice chairman Mark Warner wrote.
The committee leaders then went on to ask that Kushner confirm that the documents produced for the committee “included the additional ‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels” he may have used.
Following the letter’s publication, Lowell told Business Insider in an email that it was “perfectly normal that the committees would want to make sure that they received all pertinent records.”
“We did review this account at the time, and there were no responsive or relevant documents there,” he said. “The committee was so informed when the documents were sent, and there is no issue here.”
Andrew Wright, a former associate counsel to President Barack Obama and Vice President Al Gore, said Clinton’s lawyers had said and did just the same when asked to turn over emails from her private server.
“Lowell has represented to the committee now that he has reviewed those emails on the private account, and there are no responsive emails to the committee’s request,” he told Business Insider.
“Now, I’d just like to say, that’s exactly what Hillary Clinton’s lawyers said about the 33,000 emails that Donald Trump went nuts about during the campaign. Her lawyers reviewed her private server account, made determinations about responsiveness, provided a bunch of emails that they said were responsive, deleted the other ones, and the president as a candidate said that Hillary Clinton should be locked up and should be prosecuted for that and encouraged the Russians to hack emails and find them.
“If you get a subpoena as a lawyer for a criminal defense client, you review them and you provide the documents you think are responsive based on an ethical obligation as a lawyer, and you don’t provide the ones that aren’t,” he continued. “So, Hillary Clinton’s lawyers did that, Abbe Lowell is saying that there aren’t any. I’ve done that for lots of clients and so I think that’s a shoulder shrug. But it’s harder to defend in a political context.”
The White House is investigating the email practices of several top officials after the revelation of Kushner’s account. While it is not illegal for White House officials to use private accounts, they must forward any work-related emails to government accounts for record preservation purposes.
On Monday, Politico reported that White House officials began examining emails from a third, previously unreported email account on the domain used by Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, an assistant to the president. Trump too had used a private email account, which was set up before she had joined the administration. Sources told Politico that, since January, hundreds of emails were sent from White House addresses to private accounts on the Kushner domain.
Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, called the Trump administration’s use of private accounts “the height of hypocrisy” in a recent interview. As The Washington Post outlined, however, though both the situations share some parallels, Clinton’s use of private email was different from what is known so far about Kushner and other top White House staffers.