- Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Following the publication of a Senate Intelligence Committee letter to Jared Kushner and his lawyer, one expert outlined to Business Insider what would cause the White House senior adviser to suddenly be in serious legal jeopardy.
The letter, which appeared to be accidentally forwarded by Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, to an email prankster and then provided to CNN, came after the revelation of a private email account Kushner set up during the transition period and used while serving in the White House.
It was the first the committee had learned of Kushner’s use of private email to conduct official government business, though Kushner’s lawyer said the adviser sent or received about 100 such government-related emails on the account. Kushner did not disclose the account, which Politico reported he used to communicate with top White House officials such as former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former chief strategist Steve Bannon, to the committee during an interview this summer.
“The committee was concerned to learn of this additional email account from the news media, rather than from you, in your closed staff interview,” committee chairman Richard Burr and vice chairman Mark Warner wrote.
The chairmen then went on to ask that Kushner confirm that the documents produced for the committee “included the additional ‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels” he may have used.
Following the letter’s publication, Lowell told Business Insider in an email that it was “perfectly normal that the committees would want to make sure that they received all pertinent records.”
“We did review this account at the time, and there were no responsive or relevant documents there,” he said. “The committee was so informed when the documents were sent, and there is no issue here.”
Andrew Wright, a former associate counsel to President Barack Obama and Vice President Al Gore, told Business Insider that the tone of the committee’s letter suggests that they did not ask Kushner about possibly using private email while interviewing him earlier this year. If they had asked about it and he did not provide that information, he could be liable for making false statements, Wright added.
“My sense is from the tone of the letter from Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner, they didn’t ask him that specific question, because I feel the tone would have been sharper,” he said. “Instead this is more like ‘there’s a bucket of information we didn’t know about, and we want to make sure that you run that to ground and we haven’t missed anything.'”
But Wright said that if an email from Kushner’s private account that is responsive or relevant to the committee’s request does exist and is later presented to the committee by another witness, Kushner is “toast,” for obstructing an investigation, Wright said.
“I mean, he’s absolutely toast, because at this point his lawyer who’s represented him to the committee following this public disclosure that there was an account, and representing to the committee that there were no responsive emails, not only would Kushner be in trouble but potentially the lawyer would be in trouble,” Wright said. But, he added, “I don’t have any reason to believe that Abbe Lowell would say anything other than what was absolutely true to the committee.”
The White House is currently investigating email practices of several top officials after the revelation of Kushner’s account. While it is not illegal for White House officials to use private accounts, they must forward any work-related emails to government accounts for record preservation purposes.
On Monday, Politico reported that White House officials began examining emails from a third, previously unreported email account on the domain used by Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, an assistant to the president. Trump too had utilized a private email account, which was set up before she had joined the administration. Sources told Politico that, since January, hundreds of emails were sent from White House addresses to private accounts on the Kushner domain.
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, whom Trump said should be prosecuted for her use of private email while serving as secretary of state, called the Trump administration’s use of private accounts “the height of hypocrisy” in a recent interview. As The Washington Post outlined, however, though both the situations share some parallels, Clinton’s use of private email was different than what is known so far about Kushner and other top White House staffers.