WASHINGTON, July 1, 2019 — The House Oversight and Reform Committee is expanding its investigation into whether Trump administration officials violated the law by using personal email accounts and encrypted messaging applications to conduct government business.
In a Monday letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said the committee — which began a limited investigation last year when the House was under Republican control — was expanding the probe because the White House had not produced any of the information which he, as well as former chairmen Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., have been requesting since March 2017.
Chaffetz had opened an investigation after media reports revealed that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, had used a personal email account hosted on a private server to conduct government business. The investigation’s very existence marked an ironic twist for President Trump, who, during the 2016 election, repeatedly threatened to jail Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
Cummings, D-Md., said the responses he’d received from the White House over the six months since his last letter to Cipollone were “deficient” and added that despite sending two further requests, he’d heard nothing further since January, when Cipollone had replied to request “additional time.”
“[Y]ou have not produced a single document, you have not provided any of the requested briefings, and you have not offered any timeline by which these requests will be fulfilled. In the meantime, the Committee has received even more evidence that White House officials violated federal law and the White House’s own records policy,” he said.
“The White House’s complete obstruction of the Committee’s investigation for the past six
months is an affront to our constitutional system of government.”
In December 2018, Cummings had notified Cipollone of his intention to continue the Republican majority’s investigation, and renewed the limited requests for information Chaffetz and Gowdy had made in letters on March 8, 2017, September 25, 2017, and November 20, 2018.
Cummings noted that his previous requests were limited to what his predecessors had asked for because the White House had made assurances that it was conducting a review and would respond to the requests, adding that the White House’s stonewalling had given him no choice but to expand the investigation.
“Unfortunately, the record before the Committee makes clear that the White
House has not cooperated with those requests. As a result, the Committee now will conduct its own review of the emails and other communications by White House officials that violated federal law,” he said.
“The purpose of this investigation is to determine why White House officials used non-oflicial email accounts, texting services, and encrypted applications for official business; why they failed to forward records sent or received on non-official accounts to their official accounts within 20 days as required by federal law; whether there were specific topics that White House officials sought to conceal; and whether legislative changes should be made to prevent similar violations in the future.”
The newly-expanded document request covers “[a]ll Presidential records sent or received by non-career officials at the White House using non-official electronic messaging accounts, including records created using text messages, phone-based message applications, or encryption software, that were not forwarded to the official accounts of the employees within 20 days,” as well as documents and communications among White House and National Security Council employees pertaining to whether any of those messages were classified or contained classified information, and any reports or documents pertaining to whether Trump administration officials misused federal IT systems or failed to comply with policies meant to ensure compliance with the Presidential Records Act.