Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has taken possession of "many tens of thousands" of emails from the Trump transition team, obtained through the General Services Administration - the government agency responsible for hosting the transition email system which used a "ptt.gov" address, and which according to a Trump lawyer were improperly obtained through "unlawful conduct."
The trove of documents, which includes sensitive emails to and from Trump son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner, comprise 12 email accounts - one of which reportedly contains around 7,000 emails. Mueller's team has reportedly been using the emails as the basis for witness interviews, sources tell Axios.
The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes. -Axios
“Mueller is using the emails to confirm things, and get new leads,” a transition source adds.
Transition officials had reportedly pre-sorted emails in anticipation of Mueller's investigation, separating "privileged" communications from the rest of the cache, and sources say they were surprised to learn of Mueller's use of the emails - as they have been fully cooperative with the special counsel investigation. “They ask us to waive NDAs [nondisclosure agreements] and things like that,” a second source said. “We have never said ‘no’ to anything.”
Tranistion team lawyer Kory Langhofer says the Special Counsel obtained the documents through "unlawful conduct" by the General Services Administration, reports Fox News.
In a letter obtained by Fox News and sent to House and Senate committees on Saturday, the transition team’s attorney alleges “unlawful conduct” by the career staff at the General Services Administration in handing over transition documents to the special counsel’s office.
Kory Langhofer, the counsel to Trump for America, wrote in the letter that the special counsel’s office is aware that the GSA “did not own or control the records in question.”
But, Langhofer says, Mueller’s team has “extensively used the materials in question, including portions that are susceptible to claims of privilege.”
The Trump transition team lawyer argued the actions “impair the ability of future presidential transition teams to candidly discuss policy and internal matters that benefit the country as a whole.”
The emails could shed light on the details leading up to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's communications with Rusian ambassador Sergey Kislyak - with whom Flynn had several call to discuss sanctions, as well as an upcoming UN Security Council vote on whether or not to condemn Israel's building of settlements, which the Obama administration was preparing to allow to go through. The New York Times reported in early December that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel.
According to prosecutors, on Dec. 22, Mr. Flynn discussed with Mr. Kislyak an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.
Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kushner took the lead in those efforts. Mr. Mueller’s team has emails that show Mr. Flynn saying he would work to kill the vote, the people briefed on the matter said. -NYT
In September, Politico reported that Jared 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 - however it was used to send "less than 100 emails" which mostly consisted of "quips about news items and minor commentary."
“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. Buried deep within the report, however, that that 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.
As ZeroHedge reported at the time, Politico said 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.
In November, the Senate Judiciary Committee said Kushner failed to turn over relevant documents pertaining to a "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite" as well as emails received from WikiLeaks. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in a letter to Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell: "We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete.”
According to leaked information, Kushner allegedly neglected to disclose that Aleksander Torshin, a powerful Russian central banker and former senator with ties to both President Vladimir Putin and Russian organized crime, had reached out to the campaign with a "dinner invite" and an offer to connect Trump with Putin. Kushner, who was on the email chain, reportedly instructed junior campaign aides to rebuff the meeting. As reported by NBC, "Kushner rebuffed the request after receiving a lengthy email exchange about it between a West Virginia man and Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn, the sources said."
Grassley and Feinstein's letter point to several omissions, and addresses concerns raised by Kushner's attorney over "Executive Privilege" by creating a "privilege log" to segregate communications.
“If, as you suggest, Mr. Kushner was unaware of, for example, any attempts at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, then presumably there would be few communications concerning many of the persons identified,” the letter reads, asking Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov 27. As Politico reported at the time:
According to the lawmakers, Kushner’s attorney suggested providing some documents might “implicate the president’s Executive Privilege.” In their letter, they asked Lowell to resolve those issues and produce the documents or create a “privilege log” to detail over which documents the president is asserting executive privilege.
Grassley and Feinstein also said Kushner declined to produce documents connected to his security clearance application, citing their confidentiality. The lawmakers said they intend to take Lowell up on a separate request to visit his office to review the documents in person, but they said the committee would not waive its request to obtain its own copies.
Lowell responded, stating that they had "provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner's calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request," adding that Kushner had told the committee they would be open to additional requests for information.
And according to Transition team attorney Kory Langhofer, Mueller's team ignored any sort of "privilege log" and obtained the emails through "unlawful conduct," after which they extensively used the materials in question, "including portions that are susceptible to claims of privilege."
The transition legal team argues it could be a violation of the 4th Amendment – which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Kory Langhofer, the counsel to Trump for America, wrote in Saturday's letter that the GSA “did not own or control the records in question.”
The transition attorney said they discovered the “unauthorized disclosures” by the GSA on December 12th and 13th and raised concerns with the special counsel’s office.
Langhofer also wrote that some of the records obtained by the special counsel’s office from the GSA “have been leaked to the press by unknown persons” and argued that the actions “impair the ability of future presidential transition teams to candidly discuss policy and internal matters that benefit the country as a whole.”
Given the reported use of private email accounts by Jared Kushner other transition team members, it stands to reason that if Robert Mueller's team finds anything 'of interest,' sent to or from said accounts, they will become subject to a full review as part of the ever-expanding investigation.