Trump son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner uses WhatsApp to conduct official government business, and his wife Ivanka Trump still does official work on her personal email account, running afoul of the law, House Democrats said Thursday.
And he asked the White House for a briefing on its protocols for preserving records in accordance with the law.
"The White House's failure to provide documents and information is obstructing the Committee's investigation", Cummings wrote in the letter.
Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote to White House counsel Pat Cipollone to tell him that Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, had confirmed during the meeting that Kushner "continues to use" WhatsApp to conduct White House business. Instead, Lowell claimed he told the committee his client communicated through the app with "some people", but did not specify who the individuals were.
A representative for Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House Thursday rejected a call by House Democrats for documents relating to private conversations between President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. In the letter addressed to Cummings, Lowell disputed some of Cummings' assertions, saying the congressman's letter is "not completely accurate about what was said".
Aside from the Kushners, the House committee said other officials such as the former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon used their personal email accounts to talk about the "transfer of sensitive USA nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia". It is unclear whether Kushner's communications included classified information, which Cummings noted would be a "major security breach".
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Cummings says that he expects to hear back from the White House or will be forced to pursue other avenues to obtain the information he has requested. Cummings asked Cipollone to confirm by March 28 whether the White House intends to comply voluntarily with its investigation and subsequent document requests.
"In fact, as you know, the White House has not produced a single piece of paper to the committee in the 116th Congress - in this or any other investigation", Cummings wrote, referring to the current session of Congress, when Democrats took control of the House.
Questions about Kushner's use of WhatsApp comes in the wake of the revelation that Trump previous year directed that his son-in-law receive a top-secret security clearance, despite objections by career intelligence officials. That would appear to violate the Presidential Records Act, Mr Cummings said. The two leaders met privately in Helsinki in July for more than two hours with only interpreters present, and the White House has not said what they discussed.
According to a February 22, 2017 directive from the White House Counsel's Office, all White House personnel are required to "conduct all work related communications on your official EOP email account" except under "emergency circumstances".
The FBI investigated Clinton for her use of a personal email account and a private email server while serving as secretary of state, although the bureau ultimately found no basis for charging her. "As with all properly authorized oversight requests, the White House will review the letter and will provide a reasonable response in due course".
Regarding Mr Trump's communications with Mr Putin, Mr Cummings, House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff and Foreign Affairs chairman Eliot Engel say they are examining the substance of in-person meetings and phone calls, the effects on foreign policy, and whether anyone has sought to hide those communications. "While we respectfully seek to accommodate appropriate oversight requests, we are unaware of any precedent supporting such sweeping requests".