House Democrats pressure White House on Kushner's use of WhatsApp

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic head of a U.S. congressional investigative panel on Thursday pressed the White House for information on whether President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, used the unofficial WhatsApp messaging tool to communicate sensitive or classified information with foreign leaders.

FILE PHOTO: White House adviser Jared Kushner looks on during the Middle East summit in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings made the request in a letter seen by Reuters to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

In the letter, Cummings noted that Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, had told Congress in December that Kushner used WhatsApp as part of his official duties but did not say whether such messages included classified information.

The congressman also said Lowell told his committee that Ivanka Trump - the president’s daughter, Kushner’s wife and a White House adviser - continued to receive emails related to official business on a personal email account.

Cummings said in his letter that the Presidential Records Act prohibits top White House officials, including the president and vice president, from using non-official electronic messaging accounts.

In a letter to Cummings on Thursday, also seen by Reuters, Lowell said the congressman was “not completely accurate” in characterizing what Lowell earlier had told congressional investigators about Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s handling of electronic communications.

Lowell denied he told members of Congress Kushner had communicated through any app with foreign “leaders” or “officials” but said that instead, Kushner had used such apps for communicating with “some people,” whom he did not specify.

Lowell also denied saying that Ivanka Trump continued to receive emails related to official business on a personal account. He said Ivanka Trump “always forwards official business to her White House account.”

Steven Groves, a White House spokesman, said: “The White House has received Chairman Cummings’ letter of March 21st. As with all properly authorized oversight requests, the White House will review the letter and will provide a reasonable response in due course.”

When they controlled House committees during the administration of President Barack Obama, Republicans aggressively investigated how Hillary Clinton used a private email server while secretary of state, and complained when then- FBI Director James Comey announced no criminal charges were warranted.

Cummings said that when the House was under Republican control in March 2017, his committee had started investigating whether White House officials were using personal email and messaging accounts to conduct official business.

He said that Trump’s White House had so far failed to provide documents and information and was “obstructing” his committee’s efforts to investigate possible violations of White House policy and the presidential records law.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Mary Milliken, Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler