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Democrats plan to probe Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email for government business

Ivanka Trump participates in the Diwali ceremonial lighting of the Diya in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Nov. 13, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Democrats will examine Ivanka Trump’s email use when they take control of the House in January following reports that she used a personal email address to conduct official government business, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Tuesday.

“My goal is to prevent this from happening again — not to turn this into a spectacle the way Republicans went after Hillary Clinton,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement Tuesday.

The announcement follows a Washington Post report that the president’s daughter, a senior White House aide, used her personal email account hundreds of times in 2017 to correspond with White House staff, assistants and Cabinet officials in potential violation of federal records law.

Media outlets had previously reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, had used private email for government work, but not the extent of their potential violation.

President Donald Trump relentlessly assailed Clinton, his Democratic opponent in 2016, for using a private email server when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama. An FBI investigation found that some of Clinton’s emails included classified information, but she was not charged with a crime.

Last year, the Oversight Committee started a bipartisan investigation into whether White House officials were complying with the Presidential Records Act. The committee asked that all emails be preserved for the investigation, and asked the FBI to investigate whether any classified information was sent on private emails.

The probe began under Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, then the committee chairman, and continued under Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who succeeded him. It was dropped in March 2018 when the White House said it was conducting its own internal review, but Democrats now plan to revive it.

“We launched a bipartisan investigation last year into White House officials’ use of private email accounts for official business, but the White House never gave us the information we requested,” Cummings said.

“We need those documents to ensure that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other officials are complying with federal records laws and there is a complete record of the activities of this administration,” he added.

Cummings was the author of a 2014 update to federal law to require every federal employee, including the president, to forward any email or other message about official business using a private account to the employee’s government email account within 20 days so that it could be preserved.

American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group that uncovered Ivanka Trump’s personal email use, urged Congress to investigate.

“When we went to court last year, we expected to find the president’s daughter had an unusual role in the White House, but we didn’t anticipate this kind of extensive use of a personal email server or the panicked damage control effort that unfolded after we started asking questions,” Austin Evers, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

In a letter to committee leaders, Evers compared the president’s daughter’s behavior to Trump’s criticism of Clinton’s handling of State Department emails.

“The parallels between Ms. Trump’s conduct and that of Secretary Clinton are inescapable,” Evers wrote. “In both her use of personal email and post-discovery preservation efforts, Ms. Trump appears to have done exactly what Secretary Clinton did — conduct over which President Trump and many members of Congress regularly lambasted Secretary Clinton and which, they asserted, demonstrated her unfitness for office.”

Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, the president said his daughter’s use of private email differed from Clinton’s because Ivanka Trump’s emails didn’t include classified information and were not stored on a home server.

“There was no hiding. There was no deleting like Hillary Clinton did. There was no server in the basement like Hillary Clinton had,” Trump said of his daughter. “You were talking about a whole different, you’re talking about fake news.”

Several lawmakers ridiculed the White House for Ivanka Trump’s use of private email given its obvious political sensitivity after the bitter 2016 campaign.

“Karma has a sense of humor,” tweeted Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., a member of the Oversight Committee.

“Cue the chant?” tweeted Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, referring to the frequent cries at the president’s rallies of “Lock her up!” directed at Clinton.


© 2018 Los Angeles Times

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