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White House probing use of private email by Trump’s senior aides: report

Trump’s White House legal staff is reportedly reviewing the accounts to see if any of the messages sent relate to the Russia probes being carried out .

world Updated: Sep 29, 2017 21:54 IST
Yashwant Raj
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, husband and fellow senior adviser Jared Kushner (C), and White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn at the White House in Washington, US, September 11, 2017.
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, husband and fellow senior adviser Jared Kushner (C), and White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn at the White House in Washington, US, September 11, 2017. (REUTERS)

The White House has launched an internal probe into the use of private emails by senior Trump administration officials, past and present, including the president’s daughter and son-in-law who are both his advisers, for communicating with outsiders and colleagues.

Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as the president’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn are the three serving officials found to have used private emails for official communications, and the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former chief of staff Reince Priebus were the other two.

The White House has been deeply embarrassed by the use of private email by its officials, belonging as they do to the administration of the man who had tethered his presidential campaign in large measure to his opponent Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Trump and his aides had led supporters at election rallies to chant “Lock her up”. And now this, their own staff.

Kushner, a senior adviser who has been called ‘the secretary for everything’, given the responsibilities thrust upon him by the president — including the search for peace in West Asia, was the first reported to have been using a private email domain he had set up with his wife end of last year.

His lawyer has said less than 100 government-related mails were on that email ID, and all of them have been since moved to Kushner’s government-allotted ID for the purpose of archiving as part of government record; all White House communications are protected property of the government.

Politico, the news outlet which first reported the use private email IDs in the Trump White House, said there was no information yet if these communications contained confidential information, which could lead to more serious consequences. But that will be one of the key areas of the internal probe.

Kushner is also being probed for his contacts with Russian officials that he had missed mentioning in his application for security clearance as a top level White House official with access to sensitive information and meetings, and he has testified in closed-door sessions on Capitol Hill.

The president’s son-in-law has also faced awkward questions about his sloppy paperwork, having identified himself, as reported earlier this week, as a woman in his voter registration form in New York, where he had lived and worked most of his adult life.

The administration is scouring the White House server for emails to and from private email accounts of these aides, Politico said, quoting four people familiar with the probe.

Politico said the probe began this week after it reported private email use by Kushner.

The internal probe could take weeks or even months, it said.

Trump’s White House legal staff is reviewing the accounts to see if any of the messages sent relate to the Russia probes being carried out by two congressional panels and special counsel Robert Mueller, Politico quoted one of its sources as saying.

According to Politico, Kushner used the personal account to send messages to senior White House officials and outside advisers about media coverage, planning events, and other issues.

There is no suggestion the emails contained highly sensitive information or were classified, it added, but they could fall foul of the Presidential Records Act, which requires all documents related to the president’s personal and political activities to be archived. (With inputs from agencies)