A key House Democrat is renewing demands that the White House turn over documents about the use of private texts or emails by Jared Kushner, saying Kushner's lawyer acknowledged that the senior aide used the non-secure WhatsApp application to communicate with foreign leaders.
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. And Cummings voiced his concerns over Kushner's use of WhatsApp for government matters in a March 21 letter to White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight accused Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump of breaking US law by using personal messaging services.
The oversight panel said that Kushner, the president's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp as part of his official duties - an apparent violation of a law governing White House records.
Previous attempts by the committee to obtain information on the use of private email have been rebuffed by the White House, setting up the latest battle between the Democratic-controlled body and the president. "Mr. Lowell could not answer whether Mr. Kushner's communications included classified information", Cummings wrote.
Early a year ago, White House lawyers warned West Wing staffers in mandatory ethics training sessions not to use encrypted messaging apps.
According to Cummings, when pressed how Kushner was backing up his communications in order to assure that he wasn't violating the Presidential Records Act, Lowell responded that Kushner took "screenshots" and forwarded them to his official White House email account or to the National Security Council.
The congressman also said Lowell told his committee that Ivanka Trump - the president's daughter, Kushner's wife and a White House adviser - continued to receive emails related to official business on a personal email account.
Lowell didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. "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. Rather, she forwards on the government-business-related emails she replies to, according to the Democrat's account of Lowell's explanation.
His letter said others may have been involved in the practice while they worked at the White House, including former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Lowell says he told Cummings their discussion was in regard to a period before September 2017.
"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".
The Presidential Records Act outlines the way White House documents must be preserved and it falls under the jurisdiction of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. "As with all properly authorized oversight requests, the White House will review the letter and will provide a reasonable response in due course".