White House advisor Jared Kushner has been using WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging app, to conduct official government business, House Democrats alleged in a letter Thursday that raised concerns about his and other White House officials’ compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
In response to the allegations, Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell said that the Democrats were mischaracterizing what the lawyer told lawmakers in a meeting in December.
According to Democrats’ letter, Lowell confirmed to lawmakers Kushner’s use of the app, but that Lowell also claimed that Kushner has been complying with the law by screenshotting the messages and sending them to his White House email account or to the National Security Council. Lowell also, according to the Democrats, confirmed that Kushner’s communications were with “people outside of the United States,” according to the letter. Asked if Kushner discussed classified information over the app, Lowell told lawmakers, according to the letter, that was “above my pay grade.”
Lowell claimed on Thursday, however, that at the December meeting, he cautioned lawmakers that he wasn’t prepared to discuss the topic and that their questions were best suited for the White House. He also denied making any suggestion that Kushner used the app to communicate with foreign “leaders” or “officials” and added that Kushner has friends abroad.
Lowell said that he indicated to lawmakers in the December meeting that his knowledge about Kushner’s messaging app habits was only based on what was already reported in the press.
The lawyer on Thursday did not directly address the “above my pay grade” comment but said that he conveyed to lawmakers in December that Kushner was following protocols, including in regard to classified information.
Thursday’s letter was sent by House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. Cummings demanded that by April 4 the White House turn over previously requested information about officials’ use of personal email and messaging apps for official business. Lowell responded to Cummings’ claims in a letter of his own to Cummings.
Cummings’ letter also raised concerns about Ivanka Trump’s use of her personal account for official business. Cummings alleged that Lowell, who also represents the President’s daughter, told lawmakers that she doesn’t forward every government-related email she receives on her personal account to her White House account. Rather, she forwards on the government-business-related emails she replies to, according to the Democrat’s account of Lowell’s explanation. Cummings suggested that this system still violated the Presidential Records Act.
Lowell’s response Thursday said that he was discussing specifically a period before September 2017.
Additionally, Oversight Democrats said they had evidence that former Deputy National Security Advisor KT McFarland and ex-White House advisor Steve Bannon also used personal email accounts to conduct official business related to Middle East projects being promoted by Thomas Barrack, an outside ally of President Trump.
Read Cummings full letter here and Lowell’s response below: