The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted on Thursday to authorize subpoenas for top White House officials’ communications, Politico reports. The subpoenas would include private email accounts, texts, and messaging apps.
The 23-16 party-line vote comes after the White House refused to voluntarily turn over messages between Jared Kushner and foreign officials on his WhatsApp account. Included in the request were messages from Ivanka Trump’s private email account which she used to conduct official business and, in his capacity as former chief strategist, Steve Bannon’s personal mobile device which was used for White House business.
The committee authorized Chairman Elijah Cummings to subpoena White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for all presidential communications sent or received from January 21, 2017 to present. The resolution includes communications from the National Security Council as well as communications which may contain classified information, according to The Hill. In addition, Mulvaney can be subpoenaed for documents which refer to evidence of non-career White House officials misusing IT systems.
By law, communications sent or received by staffers on personal accounts must be forwarded to official accounts within 20 days. The communications which have not been forwarded are what the committee is interested in.
During the meeting, Democrats expressed concern that the practice of using personal email and text accounts violate the Presidential Records Act.
“It makes clear that White House records belong to the public — not the president. The committee has already received evidence of multiple senior officials using their personal accounts to conduct official business,” Chairman Cummings said.
Jim Jordan, ranking member, accused the Democrats of “fishing” through the Trump family’s emails in “an attempt to create the appearance of some type of controversy”. He said that Ivanka Trump is complying with the law, something Hillary Clinton never did. Per The Hill, the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton’s email use and did not find that she broke the law.
In the contentious business meeting, Democrats accused the Republicans of hypocrisy for not backing investigations now when in the past they have. The committee, while under control of the GOP in 2017, began investigating the email practices of White House officials. Under Democratic control since earlier this year, the probes have been expanded and Cummings is seeking documents regarding violations of the Presidential Records Act.
The Hill reports that the Oversight Committee was also supposed to vote on holding Kellyanne Conway in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena to testify regarding accusations that she violated the Hatch Act but that vote was postponed by Cummings who stated he was working with the White House to “reach an accommodation”.