House oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said he plans to issue the subpoena because the White House has ignored requests for documents. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
July 25 (UPI) -- The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Thursday authorized a subpoena of records in the panel's investigation into the White House's alleged use of private email for government business.
The committee voted 23-16 to give Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland the authority to issue the subpoenas, seeking emails and cellphone text messages sent to or from White House officials using their personal accounts.
"The committee has obtained direct evidence that multiple high-level White House officials have been violating the Presidential Records Act by using personal email accounts, text messaging services, and even encrypted applications for official business -- and not preserving those records in compliance with federal law," Cummings said.
He said the White House has refused multiple requests by the committee to review documents, prompting the need for the subpoena.
The Presidential Records Act demands that all federal employees who create documents using non-governmental email accounts forward them to their governmental accounts within 20 days.
The issue of government employees using an unofficial email accounts became problematic for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. Investigators found she used a private email server while she was President Barack Obama's secretary of state, and State Department and intelligence officials asked federal authorities to determine whether her use of private email exposed any classified material.
Former FBI Director James Comey called her actions "extremely careless," but ultimately cleared Clinton of wrongdoing.
In September 2017, the oversight committee specifically requested that presidential adviser Jared Kushner preserve all emails and other electronic data associated with an account he allegedly used to conduct business.
Cummings said both Kushner and his wife, adviser Ivanka Trump, communicated about government business using private email and WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service.
Cummings said Abbe Lowell, Kushner and Trumps' personal lawyer, had told him that Kushner used and continues to use WhatsApp for official White House communication.
Lowell told Cummings that Kushner uses the messaging service to communicate with foreign contacts but that he could not say if the president's son-in-law discussed classified information over WhatsApp.
Kushner is in compliance of the law as he takes screenshots of his communications and forwards them to his official White House email account, Cummings said he was told by Lowell.