A top House Democrat demanded Monday that the White House turn over all communications sent by senior officials using private email and messaging services — including encrypted apps — by next week, citing a blanket refusal by the Trump administration to comply with earlier requests.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said his request, with a July 10 deadline, marks the start of a new review of the private email practices of Trump administration officials that appear to violate federal record-keeping laws.
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The Maryland Democrat noted that he had made narrower requests for information months ago, such as details about Jared Kushner’s contacts with foreign officials via text and “apparent violations” by “Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon and K.T. McFarland.”
Cummings’ letter, addressed to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, also suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller had uncovered even more evidence of violations of presidential recordkeeping law, most notably Bannon’s admission that he routinely used a Blackberry and personal email for “work-related communications” — including conversations with outside adviser Erik Prince — and that “he took no steps to preserve these work communications.”
“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,” Cummings wrote.
Cummings’ letter reflects a growing frustration among Democrats with the White House’s refusal to cooperate. He noted that he made an initial request for documents in December 2018, days before Democrats took control of the House.
That request mirrored similar ones made by Cummings’ Republican predecessors, Jason Chaffetz and Trey Gowdy, who asked the White House to identify officials who have used personal email and messaging apps to conduct White House business. Republicans had previously demanded emails from former secretary of State Hillary Clinton related to the attack on an American compound in Benghazi be made public
Last year, Cummings specifically sought details about Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email and demanded to know whether communications by any White House officials might have contained sensitive or classified information.
Cummings suggested Monday that his December request, as well as a March 2019 follow-up, went ignored. As a result, he said he decided to expand the request to seek all messages sent by senior White House personnel via private email or messaging apps.
A spokesman for Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee, said the Presidential Records Act “was not intended to create a fishing license for Chairman Cummings to pry into the private communications of the first family. This is yet another example of Democrats’ obsession with finding some rationale to impeach the President.”
Cummings’ decision to reissue and broaden his request for information appears likely to meet a similar fate. But he has previously hinted he might issue a subpoena for the records — and his committee is already working to enforce other subpoenas for Trump-related records in court.
The House, on behalf of Cummings’ committee, filed its latest brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday arguing that it should have access to years of Trump’s personal financial information from the accounting firm Mazars USA.
In addition to seeking the messages themselves, Cummings is asking for any messages sent by White House employees that reveal concerns that the messages of their colleagues might contain classified information and all documents that contain evidence of misuse of communications systems by White House personnel.