Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has acknowledged using a personal email account for official White House business. As a result, Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has asked the Trump administration Monday for more information about the use of personal email accounts by senior officials.
It has been reported that Kushner is not alone among such officials and former officials in using personal accounts for official business. Others said to have done so include Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn, and Stephen Miller
What to make of this? First, given Hillary Clinton’s email scandal and the role it played in the 2016 election, Kushner was tone-deaf to have conducted his emailing this way. At a minimum, the news will embarrass the White House.
But second, Kushner’s conduct differs in important respects from Clinton’s. As the Washington Post explains, Kushner appears not to have used a private server as Clinton did, but rather used a commercially available email service. In addition, there is no evidence (at least not yet) that Kushner discussed classified information on his personal account, as Clinton did.
According to Kushner’s attorney, on the dozens of occasions when Kushner used his private account, the emails were forwarded to Kushner’s official White House address and thus preserved in accordance with government policies. If true, this takes Kushner’s conduct well out of the realm of Clinton’s, though he remains vulnerable to superficial claims that he behaved similarly.
The key question is whether Kushner violated some law, regulation, or policy. If his lawyer is to believed, it seems like he complied with the broad contours of federal record keeping requirements. However, it’s possible that he tripped up over this or that technical requirement.
Furthermore, using a private account can entail security risks. For example, the email service used may be lax on password security.
In sum, the Kushner affair, from all that appears, is not really analogous to the Clinton email scandal. Nonetheless, Trey Gowdy seems justified in probing the use of private email accounts by Trump administration officials, and Trump administration officials would be well-advised to discontinue the practice.