Ivanka Trump repeatedly used a personal email account to conduct government business in 2017, a White House review found, a fact that raises the stakes on congressional oversight hearings the new Democratic House majority will hold.
Trump’s email use, much of which first came to light last year, included exchanges on her personal account with Cabinet secretaries, as well as forwards of schedules to her assistant, a person familiar with the emails said.
Democrats will be in control of at least 232 seats when the new House is sworn in next year, according to The New York Times’ latest count. And the personal email use of Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as senior advisers to the president, has been expected to be among the topics the new leaders will address.
The subject has particular irony for Democrats, who bitterly point to President Donald Trump highlighting during the 2016 presidential campaign Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. At rally after rally, Trump discussed her server, buoyed by chants of “Lock her up!” from his crowds.
The server was discovered amid a congressional inquiry related to Clinton in 2015. The FBI investigated her use of the server — which included sending emails that were classified — but declined in July 2016 to press charges.
“Oh Ivanka,” Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, posted on Twitter on Monday evening.
The Washington Post first reported on the scope of Ivanka Trump’s email use, saying Monday that there were up to 100 related to government business, but hundreds of others related to schedules.
The New York Times reported in September 2017 that Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, was one of at least six White House advisers using private emails in the early days of the Trump administration. Newsweek, that same month, reported specifically on Trump’s email use, saying that it was mostly before she formally joined the administration, and that she “occasionally” did so after she was sworn in as a senior adviser.
A White House spokeswoman referred calls to Trump’s private lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, who did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment.
A spokesman for Lowell confirmed again that Trump had used personal email for a time before she transitioned into government.
“To address misinformation being peddled about Ms. Trump’s personal email, she did not create a private server in her house or office, there was never classified information transmitted, the account was never transferred or housed at Trump Organization, no emails were ever deleted and the emails have been retained in the official account in conformity with records preservation laws and rules,” the spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said in a statement. “When concerns were raised in the press 14 months ago, Ms. Trump reviewed and verified her email use with White House counsel and explained the issue to congressional leaders.”
Trump had told people in the White House that she was unaware of the rules when she was using her personal account.
But her repeated use of her personal email on a private address, ijkfamily.com, which was set up by Kushner and Trump during the transition, was a cause for concern within the White House Counsel’s Office, according to two people familiar with what took place.
The liberal watchdog group American Oversight said on its website that its freedom of information requests had led to the discovery of the volume of Trump’s email use. The emails obtained by American Oversight showed exchanges with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other top personnel at agencies.
“The president’s family is not above the law, and there are serious questions that Congress should immediately investigate,” Austin Evers, the group’s executive director, said in a statement on the website.
After Trump’s personal email use was discovered, Lowell helped sort out what emails qualified as official records that needed to be kept for posterity, The Post reported.
That was similar to the approach Clinton used when she was sorting through tens of thousands of emails.
Evers questioned whether Trump had turned over everything.
“When we went to court last year, we expected to find the president’s daughter had an unusual role in the White House,” he said, “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.”
Trump’s allies have stressed that the volume of emails she sent from her personal account that related to government work was relatively small.
Still, current and former White House officials have said it was characteristic of a repeated blurring of the lines between her government work and other aspects of her life, which used to include her namesake licensing and apparel businesses.