Sources say Jared Kushner wasn’t the only White House adviser who used a personal email account to discuss government business.
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WASHINGTON — The government is again looking at use of private email — this time with a twist of irony.
Now it is members of Donald Trump’s team who have to answer questions about their use of private email, the issue that candidate Trump hammered Hillary Clinton over during last year’s election.
The disclosure that White House senior officials have used private email has given Clinton and her supporters a case of schadenfreude. But so far, there’s little to suggest this will mushroom into the scandal that engulfed Clinton’s campaign — not while the administration is already under investigation over possible collusion with Russia in 2016..
“It’s just the height of hypocrisy,” Clinton told Sirius XM radio.
White House officials said their situation is vastly different, because unlike Clinton, they cc’d to official accounts or recorded correspondence that is related to government activity.
The use of private email by a government officials is not illegal, provided the officials forward the private emails to their government accounts as prescribed by presidential records law.
White House officials are periodically reminded they need to use official email for government-related work, and “they are further instructed that if they receive work-related communication on personal accounts, they should be forwarded to official email accounts,” said spokesman Sarah Sanders.
White House attorney Ty Cobb said there’s no reason to think officials aren’t honoring the process.
“People are reminded routinely about the requirements of the law,” Cobb said in a statement.
As secretary of state, Clinton kept a private server at her home and used a private email account to send and receive tens of thousands of work-related emails, some of which have since been marked as containing classified material.
Officials said Jared Kushner, senior aide and the president’s son-in-law, is among those who have used private email. Others include departed officials — Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Senior Adviser Steve Bannon — as well as current aides like economic adviser Gary Cohn and senior adviser Stephen Miller.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is seeking more information from the White House about the private emails.
In a letter to the White House, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat, cited “numerous public revelations of senior executive branch employees deliberately trying to circumvent (federal) laws by using personal, private, or alias e-mail addresses to conduct official government business.”
No charges were brought against Clinton, who in a sense agrees with the Trump team now: The use of private email was a mistake, but there was nothing improper about it.
“The hypocrisy of this administration, who knew there was no real scandal, who knew that there was no, you know, basis for all their hyperventilating,” Clinton said on Sirius XM. “Now, we’re finding, as with the latest revelations, that they didn’t mean any of it.”
Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, a former spokesman for Clinton, asked: “Will President Trump hold his own staff and his family to the same standard he held Secretary Clinton? While Secretary Clinton made a mistake that she has repeatedly said she regrets, the Trump administration officials knew better and thought the rules didn’t apply to them.”
Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer during the President George W. Bush administration, said an official who uses private mail is being careless and using bad judgment, but is not breaking the law.
“It’s just stupid — it’s not criminal,” Painter said, adding that the situation in the Trump administration “just illustrates how absurd the Clinton thing was.”
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