Trump advisers used private e-mail for work

At least six of them discussed White House issues, say officials, but their use of such accounts was 'sporadic'

(From left) President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Mr Gary Cohn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump have used private e-mail accounts for work-related matters.
(From left) President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Mr Gary Cohn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump have used private e-mail accounts for work-related matters.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • At least six of President Donald Trump's closest advisers occasionally used private e-mail addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials have revealed.

The disclosures came after news surfaced that Mr Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and adviser, used a private e-mail account to send or receive about 100 work-related e-mails during the administration's first seven months.

During the presidential race last year, Mr Trump repeatedly harped on Mrs Hillary Clinton's use of a private account as secretary of state, painting her as untrustworthy.

And Mr Kushner was not alone in using similar communications methods as Mrs Clinton: Mr Steve Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, and Mr Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, also occasionally used private e-mail addresses. Other advisers, including Mr Gary Cohn and Mr Stephen Miller, sent or received at least a few e-mails on personal accounts, officials said on Monday.

Ms Ivanka Trump, the President's elder daughter, who is married to Mr Kushner, also used a private account when she acted as an unpaid adviser in the first months of the administration, Newsweek reported on Monday. Administration officials, speaking anonymously, acknowledged that she also occasionally did so when she formally became a White House adviser.

Officials are supposed to use government e-mails for their official duties so their conversations are available to the public and those conducting oversight. A former administration official noted that in many cases, people received e-mails on their personal accounts.

But it is not illegal for White House officials to use private e-mail accounts as long as they forward work-related messages to their work accounts so they can be preserved.

During the presidential race, Mr Trump made Mrs Clinton's use of a private account as secretary of state a centrepiece of his campaign.

"We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office," Mr Trump said last year. His campaign rallies often boiled over with chants of "Lock her up!" .

The Federal Bureau of Investigation closed its investigation into Mrs Clinton's handling of classified information and recommended no charges.

While the private e-mail accounts spurred accusations of hypocrisy from Democrats, there are differences.

Mrs Clinton stored classified information on a private server, and she exclusively used a private account for her government work, sending or receiving tens of thousands of e-mails. The content and frequency of the Trump advisers' e-mails remain unknown, but officials described it as sporadic.

"All White House personnel have been instructed to use official e-mail to conduct all government-related work," Ms Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said. The acknowledgement of private e-mail use came as the White House is responding to a wide-ranging Justice Department request for documents and e-mails as part of the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling.

The use of private e-mails has the potential to complicate that effort, but White House officials said they were confident in the process.

Mr James Norton, a former Homeland Security official during the George W. Bush administration, said private accounts pose security risks.

"These private e-mail accounts become targets of phishing attacks or other types of ways of collecting information," he said.

"It is introducing risk into the system."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Trump advisers used private e-mail for work'. Subscribe