The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted along party lines to authorize Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to subpoena for records from the White House in connection with an investigation into aides’ use of personal email and text applications for official business.
The panel voted 23-16 Thursday on a resolution that authorizes Cummings to subpoena White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for official records and communications sent or received by noncareer White House officials using private email and nonofficial text-based accounts.
“There are serious questions about this White House’s use of personal email and text accounts. We must issue these subpoenas to get our answers,” said Cummings at the business meeting Thursday morning.
Democrats blasted the White House, accusing aides of flouting federal records laws, particularly the Presidential Records Act. Cummings pointed to evidence President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has used WhatsApp to conduct official White House business.
“This is the law. We make the laws,” Cummings said. “If we are going to preserve our records, we need to preserve them consistently.”
The committee voted on the subpoena at a business meeting Thursday that became heated as Republicans and Democrats sparred over comparisons between the case surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the reported use of personal email and text by Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.
Democrats accused Republicans of hypocritically not supporting the subpoenas when they backed such investigations in the past.
Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of unfairly targeting the administration and the president’s family, arguing they are after the communications for political purposes.
“Ivanka Trump is complying with the law. Hillary Clinton never did,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the committee’s top Republican.
Clinton’s email use at State was investigated by the FBI in 2016. The FBI did not find that Clinton broke the law.
Cummings has repeatedly requested records from the White House related to his investigation of Trump officials’ email and text use, but said he hasn’t received any documents or briefings from the executive branch in response.
The top Democrat wrote a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone earlier this month reiterating his requests for documents and a briefing on White House officials’ use of personal communications for official business. Cummings also announced he was expanding the probe, citing evidence laid out in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The resolution approved Thursday authorizes Cummings to subpoena Mulvaney for all presidential records sent or received by noncareer White House officials from January 21, 2017, to present using nonofficial electronic messaging accounts that were not forwarded to their official accounts, as well as all communications potentially containing classified information that were sent or received by noncareer White House officials — including members of the National Security Council — from January 21, 2017, to present using nonofficial electronic messaging accounts.
The resolution also authorizes Cummings to subpoena Mulvaney for documents referring to reports, allegations or evidence of misuse of IT systems by noncareer officials at the White House.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
The personal email investigation is one of several the White House is facing from House Democrats. The White House has refused to comply with a myriad of Democrats’ document requests, arguing they are overstepping their authorities and infringing on executive branch privileges.
The Oversight panel was also supposed to vote Thursday to hold White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for testimony related to alleged violations of the Hatch Act. However, Cummings postponed the vote, saying Wednesday he is working with the White House “to try to reach an accommodation.”
The business meeting came just before lawmakers are set to depart Washington for the August recess.