White House rejects House Democrats' request for Trump-Putin communications

Saul Bowman
March 22, 2019

To underscore his concern about whether unsecured White House communications have included classified information, Cummings said in the letter that Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, acknowledged during a meeting with committee leaders in December that Kushner had used the messaging application WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders.

Cummings also said his committee obtained documents showing that K.T. McFarland, former Deputy National Security Advisor, and Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist, conducted official business on their personal email accounts relating to transfer of sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Cummings noted Lowell could not say whether or not Kushner had shared classified information, which he noted 'would be a major security breach, ' in his messaging.

The Oversight Committee said it's also learned that former Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland and former White House strategist Steve Bannon also used personal emails to conduct business related to sensitive nuclear technology.

But Lowell said Kushner was not violating federal law requiring official communications to be preserved because he takes screenshots of his messages and then sends them to his White House email account, Cummings wrote.

House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said Thursday his committee has obtained new information that several senior White House officials have used personal email and messaging accounts to conduct government business, asserting that President Donald Trump's son-in-law communicated with foreign leaders through a private messaging application that appears to lack adequate safeguards.

He said the document was related to efforts by McFarland and other White House officials to transfer sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia "in coordination with Tom Barrack, a personal friend of President Trump and the chairman of President Trump's inaugural committee".

The Democrats reacted: "Our Committees are in receipt of the White House Counsel's letter, which continues a troubling pattern by the Trump Administration of rejecting legitimate and necessary congressional oversight with no regard for precedent or the constitution".

The House committee's investigation comes after Ivanka Trump previous year dismissed any comparison to the use of private email by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which prompted an FBI investigation and inspired the "Lock Her Up" chant at then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rallies.

"The White House's failure to provide documents and information is obstructing the Committee's investigation", Cummings wrote in the letter.

"As you know, the White House has not produced a single piece of paper to the Committee in the 116th Congress - in this or any other investigation", Cummings wrote.

The president initially indicated that he would cooperate with the Judiciary Committee, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just hours later called the probe "a disgraceful and abusive investigation into exhausted, false allegations". "If they don't include or screenshot or have this information forwarded from their personal accounts to their official government accounts, guess what, it goes into essentially the ether and no one can see it again", she explained. The White House has refused to turn over the documents. Kushner was also caught using a private email for government business in September 2017. An attorney for McFarland declined to comment.

Cummings requested documentation into the use of email by March 28.

In the final month of the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump accused Clinton of "willful and deliberate criminal conduct" in her use of private email while serving as secretary of state.

Coates explained that Cummings could have a hard time retrieving the information he needs for his investigation if the information is not kept in an official government record.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article