Holding the Government Accountable

White House Launches Probe of Private Email Accounts

(Photo: North Charleston / Flickr)

This article was co-authored with Josh Dawsey and reported in coordination with POLITICO.

The White House has launched an internal probe of private email use, pulling batches of emails on the White House server to and from private accounts of senior aides, according to four officials familiar with the matter.

The effort began this week after POLITICO reported that Jared Kushner and a number of other senior White House officials used private email accounts throughout the year to conduct government business.

Of particular interest is Kushner and Ivanka Trump's private email domain, because they still work in the White House, two officials said. Accounts of other White House officials also are being reviewed.

The probe could take several weeks or even months to complete, according to one of these people, as officials are searching for all emails sent or received about government business. The White House counsel's office is reviewing the accounts to determine whether the messages are germane to any investigations such as the ongoing Russia probes by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, one of these people said.

News about the private email accounts caught many White House lawyers by surprise, one of these people said, and infuriated a number of White House officials.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment on the review, but said, "The White House instructs staff to fully comply with the Presidential Records Act and briefs staff on the need to preserve records."

At least five current and former White House officials have used private email, POLITICO previously reported. Those include Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus.

Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has said there are fewer than 100 emails about government business in Kushner's private email domain, and that all have been forwarded to his White House account.

The email practice has come under particular scrutiny because President Donald Trump was so critical of Hillary Clinton's private email server, leading to chants of "Lock her up!" on the campaign trail.

There is no evidence White House officials have sent or received classified or sensitive emails on their personal accounts, but the probe is set to determine whether that occurred. The probe is being led by the White House counsel's office, two of these people said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday asked Kushner's lawyer to review all his private email and correspondence on other messaging services, citing "concern" that he didn't disclose the email account in a private interview.

Kushner's lawyer has said there is nothing on the private server relating to the investigations into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Kushner previously used a business account during the transition and campaign.