- Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wants committee chairman Trey Gowdy to push for Jared Kushner to turn over documents related to his use of private email. Cummings’ Monday letter is his second in the span of a few days asking Gowdy to turn up the heat on the probe. The letters came after Cummings had requested the documents from Kushner in September.
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland is pushing House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy to subpoena White House senior adviser Jared Kushner for documents related to his use of private email while serving in the White House.
In a letter to Gowdy sent Monday, Cummings, the ranking member on the committee, asked the South Carolina Republican to either join his September request to Kushner asking for such documents or “allow committee members to vote on a motion to issue a subpoena to compel Mr. Kushner to produce the requested documents.”
Cummings sent a letter to Kushner in September asking for him to preserve official records of his emails and provide the committee with email addresses for any private account he used to conduct official business as well as a list of emails he’d sent or received on those accounts pertaining to official business. On Friday, Cummings wrote to Gowdy asking that he either demand “full compliance” from the White House on a separate, email-related request he made to White House counsel Donald McGahn, or allow for the committee to vote on subpoenaing the White House for documents.
In both letters, Cummings said that White House lawyers told committee staffers during a meeting last week that “several” Trump administration officials used private email accounts to conduct government business, which is in violation of the Presidential Records Act. Cummings said the lawyers, deputy counsel Stefan Passantino, deputy counsel Uttam Dhillon, and associate counsel Daniel Epstein, refused to name the officials.
Referencing his initial letter to Kushner, Cummings said he “explicitly directed” the senior adviser, who is also President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, to preserve his email records and take “reasonable steps to prevent the ‘relocation’ of those email records.”
Cummings cited reports that both Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife and an assistant to the president, re-routed their personal email accounts to Trump Organization computers less than two days after Cummings’ request was sent.
“It was unclear why they would transfer these accounts to the Trump Organization, which they claimed previously to have halted all business with in order to avoid conflicts of interest,” he said.
Cummings added that when the White House lawyers were asked about whether Kushner was in compliance with the Presidential Records Act, they said, “You should talk to Mr. Kushner’s counsel about that.”
“In light of the statement from the White House that the committee should obtain this information directly from Mr. Kushner and his attorneys, I am writing today to urge you to reverse your current course of action and join my requests for documents and a briefing,” Cummings wrote in the Monday letter. “If you decline, then I believe committee members should have the opportunity to debate and vote on a motion to issue subpoenas to compel Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump to produce these documents.”
“If the committee is going to conduct a credible investigation into the use of private email by President Trump’s top aides, we cannot allow lawyers representing the White House and the Kushners to play off each other to withhold documents and evade congressional scrutiny.”
The latest push comes more than a month after Politico reported Kushner set up a private email account in December and used it since to discuss official government business with fellow administration officials.
Some of those officials included former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and National Economic Council chairman Gary Cohn.
Though Kushner’s lawyer said the adviser also “uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” he admitted that Kushner had utilized a personal email account to discuss government business.
“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account,” the lawyer said. “These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”
“Kushner has adhered to government record-keeping requirements by forwarding all the emails to his account,” the lawyer added.
In addressing last week’s letter from Cummings, Gowdy said the “assertion that the White House has not cooperated is false.”
“Our investigation into private email use for official business is government-wide and not about one entity,” he said in a statement provided to Business Insider. “The committee has been looking at the use of private email for years. I’m glad my Democrat colleagues now acknowledge the severity of the issue. The White House provided a briefing this week to share specific details on all of our outstanding questions and committed to follow up at the conclusion of an ongoing investigation.”
“Allegations that we have completed our engagement with the White House on this issue are absurd,” he continued. “As recently as this morning I was on the phone with a cabinet-level official to ensure their full compliance. We need the documents – not the drama.”
In a Friday letter to the White House, Gowdy wrote that he was aware the administration was conducting a review of any possible noncompliance with federal record-keeping laws, adding that the committee would follow up on its initial request once that review was completed.