White House senior advisor and First Daughter Ivanka Trump reportedly used a personal account to send hundreds of emails about official White House business throughout 2017, and as expected, many of the usual suspects have kept mum on the obvious parallels to the 2016 election.
In May 2017, nonpartisan watchdog group American Oversight filed suit against five departments—the Departments of Commerce, Education, Labor, the Treasury, and the Small Business Administration (SBA)—that failed to respond as required by law to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on Ivanka Trump’s email or text correspondence on official White House business. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 mandates the preservation of all presidential communication and records as a permanent archive of each administration.
Four agencies ultimately produced emails sent by “Ivanka Kushner” and “Ivanka Trump,” which, while heavily redacted, show that Ivanka used a private email account on a domain shared with her husband Jared Kushner to correspond with senior officials. One email comes from Feb. 28, before she became an unpaid federal employee in March, when she spoke with SBA administrator Linda McMahon about wanting to “explore opportunities to collaborate” on issues relating to “women’s entrepreneurship.”
These requests promoted an investigation by White House ethics officials, who found hundreds of emails sent by Ivanka Trump to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants, many of which are in violation of federal records rules, as reported on Monday by The Washington Post, citing sources familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.
Upon the latest revelations into Ivanka’s emails, Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, asked in a statement whether the President’s family will be held accountable for its email practices:
The president’s family is not above the law, and there are serious questions that Congress should immediately investigate. Did Ivanka Trump turn over all of her emails for preservation as required by law? Was she sending classified information over a private system?
In the statement, Evers also added:
When we went to court last year, we expected to find the president’s daughter had an unusual role in the White House, 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.
This inquiry comes as part of American Oversight’s larger ongoing investigation into Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner’s roles in the Trump administration, including one into reports that the couple had used a private email server for at least some official government business. In September 2017, the group also submitted FOIA requests to eight Trump administration offices or agencies seeking copies of Kushner’s emails sent to or from that private server.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump said that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s “corruption is on a scale we have never seen before,” and called her use of personal emails to correspond as Secretary of State ““bigger than Watergate.”
As recently as this August, nearly two years after his win, President Trump tweeted blaming China for the hack into his then-opponent’s emails.
Meanwhile, President Trump has both acknowledged and defended his daughter’s use of private emails at the start of his administration.
“Just so you understand, early on and for a little period of time, Ivanka did some emails,” the President told reporters Tuesday on the White House South Lawn. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton who deleted 33,000—she wasn’t hiding, she wasn’t doing anything to hide her emails.”
The 33,000 messages in question were personal in nature, as Clinton determined before turning in her private account for the FBI’s investigation into her emails.
Ivanka’s team has used the defense that, despite her father’s very public attack on his opponent on the grounds of her private email use, Ivanka was not aware of the rules on presidential correspondence.
“While transitioning into government, after she was given an official account but until the White House provided her the same guidance they had given others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her personal account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,” said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump lawyer Abbe Lowell, in a statement, as per The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the Post has also found that Fox & Friends, a program that dedicated months of coverage to the Clinton email scandal, only spent a 25-second segment discussing the Ivanka Trump email revelations.
Media observers have also noted that the Ivanka Trump story has garnered significantly less coverage in mainstream publications than the Clinton scandal in 2016, while that coverage has continued to foreground the partisan optics of it all, above all else.
It remains to be seen whether the emails will spur a Congressional investigation, as for which Evers has called. However, based on the coverage around the scandal, it seems that we still haven’t learned our lessons from 2016 and President Trump will, once again, manage to take control of how much media attention is paid to this email story. But regardless of the outcome, it’s worth remembering that Trump still holds this power to control the media narrative, despite what he’ll tell you.