Two Democrat senators are prodding the White House for more information on the private email accounts used by Trump administration senior officials.
In a Jan. 30 letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are questioning whether the activity on the private email accounts of White House staffers were in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
The records law, re-invigorated during the Obama administration, defines public ownership of administration records, allows incumbent presidents to purge files no longer deemed necessary and establishes a process for the restriction and public access to records through the Freedom of Information Act.
Members of Congress also may obtain special access to these records through this legislation.
White House staff members agree not to create or send presidential records using non-official accounts — but there are loopholes. The lawmakers said in the letter that it is legal for a staff member to send an email that “copies an official electronic messaging account in the original creation or transmission of the federal record,” or “forward a complete copy of the Presidential record to an official electronic messaging account of the covered employee not later than 20 days after the original creation or transmission of the Presidential record.”
While staff members are encouraged to use unofficial email accounts to file and separate official and personal records, commingling the two directly violates the law.
According to public reports detailed in the letter, at least four senior officials — including presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor Stephen Bannon and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner — maintained active email accounts on a private Republican National Committee (RNC) system while serving in the White House.
These activities follow the ongoing scrutiny during the 2016 presidential election of Obama administration officials using private email servers.
Since the publication of the original reports about the Trump officials, the RNC deleted several of the emails from the server, the letter said.
“The RNC did not indicate whether or not any of these email accounts were used to conduct government business,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
Information detailing the activity of the private emails has not been released, so it is unknown if the officials violated the law, or if their use fell under the above exemptions.
The letter gave McGahn until Feb. 10 to file a response in writing about whether the use of private email accounts by White House staffers is violating the law. Carper and McCaskill ask McGahn to let them know of any necessary policy or procedural updates to better promote compliance.
The senators asked the counsel to “provide us with a copy of all written policies and procedures provided to Trump White House staff as well as regular updates regarding compliance with these standards.”