Cummings Objects to “Inexplicable” Claim That White House is in “Full Compliance” with Committee Document Request on Personal Email Use
Cummings Objects to “Inexplicable” Claim That
White House is in “Full Compliance” with
Committee Document Request on Personal Email Use
Seeks Bipartisan Demand or Committee Vote on a Subpoena
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 20, 2017)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to join him in sending a letter demanding all documents the White House is currently withholding in response to the Committee’s bipartisan request on the use of personal email by the President’s top White House aides in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA).
Last week, the White House sent a letter in response to the Committee’s previous bipartisan requestfor documents, stating that “the White House has endeavored to educate all White House employees regarding their responsibilities under the PRA.” But the letter did not identify a single White House official who used personal email, what personal email accounts were used, or who used personal text messaging, phone-based message applications, or encrypted software for official communications—even though that information had been specifically requested by the Committee.
Cummings’ letter revealed that White House officials briefed Democratic and Republican Committee staff earlier this week, but continued to refuse to provide the requested information. Yet, these officials stated that several White House employees came forward and “confessed” that they failed to forward official records from their personal email accounts to their governmental email accounts within 20 days, as the Presidential Records Act requires. The White House also refused to identify those individuals.
When asked whether Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner complied with the Presidential Records Act, the White House officials replied, “You should talk to Mr. Kushner’s counsel about that.”
“Throughout the briefing, these White House officials argued that they could not provide this information while their internal review was underway, but they refused to provide a date certain by which they would comply, and they refused to commit to providing this information even after they complete their review,” Cummings wrote. “Instead of providing the information they have now and supplementing their production as more information becomes available, as other agencies are doing, they expected the Committee to abandon our request for some unspecific period of time without a commitment to ultimately provide all of the information we requested.”
In his letter to Gowdy today, Cummings wrote that “you have declined my request to send a follow-up letter to the White House seeking the information we requested by a date certain because the White House is in ‘full compliance’ with the bipartisan document request we sent on September 25, 2017. In contrast, they reported that you do plan to send precisely these types of follow-up letters to other agencies demanding this information with a due date of October 26, 2017.”
“Based on the record before us, I do not believe anyone can reasonably argue that the White House is in ‘full compliance’ with our document request,” Cummings wrote. “If you decide to follow-through on your proposed course of action, the Committee essentially will be abdicating its oversight responsibilities under the Constitution by walling off the White House from serious congressional scrutiny. Unfortunately, this is now becoming a troubling pattern of the Oversight Committee capitulating to the Trump White House rather than exercising its independent authority to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.”
Cummings cited a detailed, ten-page letter he sent earlier this week from all 18 Democratic Committee Members laying out the case for a subpoena after the White House refused to provide even a single document in response to the Committee’s bipartisan request on March 22, 2017, for documents relating to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Gowdy rejected that request, asserting that he does not want to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation.
“However, during the ongoing criminal investigation relating to Benghazi, you subpoenaed thousands of documents and demanded hours of sworn testimony from witnesses—including the primary Republican target, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as individuals who were at the time potential witnesses in the upcoming criminal trial of Abu Khattala.” Cummings wrote.
Cummings asked Gowdy to send a new letter to the White House demanding full compliance with the Committee’s bipartisan request no later than October 26, 2017. If Gowdy declines, Cummings asked that he allow Committee members to vote on a motion to subpoena the White House for the documents at the next regularly scheduled business meeting.
Click here to read today’s letter.