Ivanka Trump Email Investigation Sparked by American Oversight FOIAs

FOIA requests filed by American Oversight prompted the discovery by White House officials that Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Trump and a top adviser to the president, used personal email to communicate with federal agencies on hundreds of occasions, the Washington Post reported on November 19, 2018.

Statement from Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight:

“The president’s family is not above the law, and there are serious questions that Congress should immediately investigate. Did Ivanka Trump turn over all of her emails for preservation as required by law? Was she sending classified information over a private system? For more than two years, President Trump and senior leaders in Congress have made it very clear that they view the use of personal email servers for government business to be a serious offense that demands investigation and even prosecution, and we expect the same standard will be applied in this case.

“When we went to court last year, we expected to find the president’s daughter had an unusual role in the White House, but we didn’t anticipate this kind of extensive use of a personal email server or the panicked damage-control effort that unfolded after we started asking questions.”

More background on American Oversight’s investigation into Ivanka Trump’s personal email use is below.

FOIAs and Litigation

On March 31, 2017, American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Departments of Commerce, Education, Labor, the Treasury, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) seeking 1) emails or texts between Ivanka Trump or anyone acting on her behalf and political appointees, and 2) calendar entries for meetings between Ivanka Trump and political appointees. According to news reports from the first months of the administration, Ivanka Trump had been given a portfolio of issues that would have likely brought her into contact with officials at those agencies.

After the agencies failed to respond as required by law, we went to court. On May 17, 2017, we filed suit against the five agencies demanding the release of any records responsive to our requests — and to turn over any emails between Ivanka Trump or her staff and senior Trump administration political appointees. We agreed to dismiss SBA from the lawsuit after the agency said it would produce the requested records, but the case proceeded against the other four agencies.

Emails Uncovered

Four agencies ultimately produced emails between Ivanka Trump and senior political staff.

Small Business Administration

On June 20, 2017, SBA released a 4-page production of emails between Ivanka Kushner, Linda McMahon, and staff for Ivanka.

The redaction of the email address in the first message covers only the domain name, making it clear that “Ivanka Kushner” was corresponding from a .com account.

 

Department of Labor

On August 31, 2017, the Labor Department (DOL) released a set of emails between White House staff acting on behalf of Ivanka Trump and DOL officials. A subsequent production of similar records was released on October 31, 2017. Neither production contained any emails directly from Ms. Trump.

 

Department of Education

Beginning on September 29, 2017, the Department of Education (ED) released a series of productions — the first of which included a single email from  “Ivanka Kushner” to Secretary Betsy DeVos sent on March 1, 2017. The email address is redacted.

 

Department of the Treasury

On October 31, 2017, Treasury released over 100 pages of emails, including several messages sent by “Ivanka Kushner” and “Ivanka Trump.” From context, it appears that some were likely sent from non-governmental email accounts. One email from the display name “Ivanka Kushner” explicitly requests that a correspondent use her official address in the future. This pattern would be consistent with the SBA production above in which the “Ivanka Kushner” address is clearly a private, .com account.

 

Department of Commerce

On November 30, 2017, Commerce released its initial production, which was too heavily redacted to determine if it contained any communications sent directly to or from Ivanka Trump. Commerce made a supplemental production of several dozen additional pages on May 14, 2018. This set of documents contains an email that is described by reply emails as being from Ivanka Trump to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The sender’s email address is fully redacted.

Ongoing Investigation

In September 2017, following news reports that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner had used a private email server for at least some official government business, American Oversight submitted FOIA requests to eight Trump administration offices or agencies seeking copies of emails sent to or from Jared Kushner on that private server.

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