White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has used an encrypted messaging application for official business and to communicate with contacts outside the United States, his lawyer told senior lawmakers in December.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, disclosed the admission from Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell in a new letter to the White House, demanding records and documents related to White House officials’ use of private email for government work.
Lowell, according to Cummings, told the committee that Kushner sent screenshots of his WhatsApp messages to his White House email account or the National Security Council, and said that Kushner was in compliance with the law. He could not say whether Kushner used the application to discuss classified information.
Cummings, along with then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, met with Lowell in December, as part of an investigation into use of personal email at the White House, and following a CNN report that Kushner used WhatsApp to communicate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
In a response to Cummings released Thursday, Lowell said he initially told Cummings Kushner had used “some communications with ‘some people’ and did not specify who they were,” and that he didn’t say Kushner used the application to communication with foreign leaders.
“I did convey that Mr. Kushner follows the protocols (including the handling of classified information) as he has been instructed to do,” he said.
He also said he referred Cummings to the White House counsel’s office for questions about Kushner’s use of the application.
Under the Presidential Records Act, White House officials are prohibited from using non-official email or messaging systems without forwarding any messages to their official email accounts within 20 days.
The Maryland Democrat is investigating potential violations of federal record-keeping laws by Kushner, senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump, and other current and former White House officials.
He asked for lists of White House officials who have used personal email accounts and messaging applications for official business, and more information about the White House archiving process for electronic communications.
In his letter, Cummings said he would give the White House until April 4th to cooperate with the committee's investigation voluntarily.
"The White House's failure to provide documents and information is obstructing the Committee's investigation into allegations of violations of federal records laws by White House officials," he wrote.
In a statement, White House spokesman Steven Groves said, “The White House has received Chairman Cummings’ letter of March 21st. As with all properly authorized oversight requests, the White House will review the letter and will provide a reasonable response in due course.”