President Donald Trump’s top most senior officials, including Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and chief strategist Steve Bannon, hold active, private Republican National Committee email accounts, according to Newsweek.
The news comes just a few months after the presidential campaign during which Trump and his team repeatedly threatened to jail Hillary Clinton for using a private email server and then deleting some 30,000 emails she and her lawyers decided were non-business related. Although the FBI recovered some of her emails and decided Clinton committed no crime, “lock her up” and “crooked Hillary” became the mantra at Trump rallies.
The system is the same one the George W. Bush administration was accused of using to dodge transparency. As much as 22 million emails were “lost,” many from around the time of the beginning of the Iraq War, but the Obama administration found them and turned them over to the National Archives — however, because of their highly sensitive nature, they have not been disclosed to the public.
Using separate email accounts is not illegal in the White House. In fact, they serve to divide political conversation from actual White House work (commingling the two violates the Hatch Act which forbids government executives to engage in politics on government time). There is no evidence that Trump’s staffers have committed any wrongdoing, although the RNC accounts do call out their hypocrisy.
Apart from this, there are other serious issues with nonofficial email server — the system can be hacked. According to the U.S. intelligence experts, the mailing system was hacked during the 2016 campaign trail by the Russians but they only chose to release condemning information from the Democratic source — leaving the CIA to believe the operation was intended to help elect Trump.
It’s not yet confirmed whether Trump’s staffers have already used the RNC email address. If they have done so, they are subject to “Disclosure Requirement For Official Business Conducted Using Electronic Messaging Accounts” — a law that requires White House workers to copy or forward communications into the government system within 20 days to ensure seamless transparency. If they don’t do so, they will be violating the law.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlos Barria