As if the flow of news on this warm September weekend wasn’t hectic enough thanks to President Trump’s decision to pick a fight with professional sports, Politico is out with the latest bombshell report alleging some nefarious act was committed by one of Trump’s closest advisors, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Politico reports that, in an ironic twist, Kushner continued to use a private email account that had been set up during the transition to communicate with fellow administration officials during Trump’s first nine months in office, even as Trump continued to bash his former rival’s mishandling of classified information on a private server during her time at the State Department.
While Politico places the implication of wrongdoing front and center in its story, it waits until lower down to provide a key piece of context from the White House communications department: "Kushner sent less than 100 emails from this account, and those that were sent consisted mostly of quips about news items and minor commentary."
Liberals like to talk about the concept of false equivalence, especially in the context of how the media covered the Clinton email scandal vs. coverage of Trump’s more controversial pronouncements and business arrangements. That's what this Kushner story appears to be. Judging by the description, it’s clear that Kushner didn’t rely on his private account to conduct public business, and only used it to send a handful of messages. More to the point, while he may have violated public-information guidelines, he did not improperly handle classified information.
“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, said in a statement Sunday. “Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”
Politico also noted that Kushner’s use of a private email account was part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business. Kushner allegedly used the private account to communicate with Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn and Josh Raffel.
Aides who have exchanged emails with Kushner on his private account since President Donald Trump took office in January include former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, and spokesman Josh Raffel, according to emails described to or shown to POLITICO. In some cases, those White House officials have emailed Kushner’s account first, said people familiar with the messages.
…and then there’s this, six paragraphs in.
There is no indication that Kushner has shared any sensitive or classified material on his private account, or that he relies on his private email account more than his official White House account to conduct government business. Aides say he prefers to call or text over using email.
And that's not even the most glaring example of Politico's tendency to leave key details that detract from the impression of wrongdoing until much later in the story.
Even further down, Politico admits that Kushner’s conduct may not violate the Presidential Records Act...
Private email traffic among White House aides — some of it sent between personal email accounts rather than to or from government addresses — could skirt the requirements of the Presidential Records Act, which requires all documents related to the president’s personal and political activities to be archived. Trump himself is not known to use email but occasionally has email messages to his assistant printed and presented to him.
…And, furthermore, that it couldn’t verify whether Kushner forwarded all work-related emails to his work account, which would render his behavior 100% legitimate. The White House is insisting he remained in compliance, and Politico hasn’t uncovered any evidence to discredit this claim.
Lowell said Kushner has adhered to government record-keeping requirements by forwarding all the emails to his account, though POLITICO could not verify that.
Other White House officials have also sometimes used personal accounts to correspond with Kushner and with each other, according to emails seen by POLITICO and people familiar with Kushner’s correspondence. They have also used encrypted apps like Signal and Confide that automatically delete messages, prompting former press secretary Sean Spicer in February to issue a warning to communications staffers that using such apps could violate the Presidential Records Act.
Politico then adds that private-email use in the Trump administration has been “somewhat common” despite Trump’s attacks on Clinton.
The use of personal email accounts in the Trump White House has been somewhat common, even though the president has been a harsh critic of Clinton’s private email habits, frequently leading “lock her up” chants as he traveled across the country on the campaign trail.
Politico also says Kushner and Ivanka Trump set up their private family domain late last year before moving to Washington from New York, according to people with knowledge of events as well as publicly available internet registration records. At the time, Kushner, who served as a senior campaign adviser, was expected to be named to a White House role, while Ivanka Trump was publicly saying she didn’t plan to work in her father’s administration, though she ended up taking an unpaid role with an office in the West Wing. People familiar with the account say it was primarily set up for personal use, but that Kushner has used it to communicate with acquaintances outside the White House about matters relating to Trump and the administration, according to people who have received messages.
Ivanka has an email account on the same domain, but there’s no indication she used her account for work purposes.
So is Kushner's sending of work-related notes from his private email account a major violation on par with Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information? Or just another mainstream attack on Kushner, meant to dilute the Hillary Clinton email narrative?