Published: Fri, March 22, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

House Democrats ask White House about Kushner use of WhatsApp messaging

House Democrats ask White House about Kushner use of WhatsApp messaging

Representative Elijah Cummings said Thursday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had obtained documents showing that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland discussed transferring sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, according to a letter released publicly.

Kushner, according to Politico, reportedly uses WhatsApp to communicate with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The revelations are particularly embarrassing for President Trump, who during the 2016 campaign called for the jailing of Hillary Clinton over her own use of a secret email account to exchange top-secret information.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is expressing concerns over senior White House aide Jared Kushner's use of the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp and his personal e-mail account for official government business.

After the White House failed to respond to Cummings' document and briefing requests in December, Cummings added in his letter, the committee gathered information that raised "more concerns" about the personal email use of Kushner and other White House officials. Lowell said that he "never" said at their December meeting that Kushner's communications on WhatsApp were with foreign "leaders" or "officials". Lowell said he was referring to Trump's email use before September 2017 and that he told committee staff that now "she always forwards official business to her White House account".

The lawyer on Thursday did not directly address the "above my pay grade" comment but said that he conveyed to lawmakers in December that Kushner was following protocols, including in regard to classified information. Cummings says that appears to violate the Presidential Records Act.

Cummings said that Trump's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, told the committee that Trump doesn't preserve official emails she receives in her personal account if she doesn't respond to them. Cummings noted that in October 2017, White House lawyers briefed committee staff and "confessed" that several White House employees had failed to forward official records from their personal email accounts to their government accounts within 20 days, although they refused to identify the staffers.

Cummings said the deadline for the document requests is April 4.

The scrutiny of the couple's communications by the House committee comes after news reports revealed the use of private email accounts and messaging applications as part of their government jobs.

Ivanka Trump's use of private e-mail for White House communications has come up before. "The Committee requests that you confirm by March 28, 2019, whether you intend to comply voluntarily with its request or whether the committee should consider alternative means to obtain the information it needs to conduct its investigation", Cummings wrote.

He also said he referred Cummings to the White House counsel's office for questions about Kushner's use of the application.

"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", Cummings said in his letter.

In the years since Mrs. Clinton left the State Department a new law was passed that does require government business to be transacted on official accounts - or at the least for official messages sent to personal emails to be forwarded. "As with all properly authorized oversight requests, the White House will review the letter and will provide a reasonable response in due course".

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