March 22, 2019 – Note: Revelation of Kushner’s actions is the latest likely violation of the PRA by a senior White House official. Reports show Ivanka Trump continues to use personal email accounts for official business even after she claimed she didn’t realize she was in violation of the PRA when news first broke of her actions.
Statement of Lisa Rosenberg, Executive Director, Open the Government
In bypassing the communication security protections of the White House to use commercial messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Jared Kushner not only chose to ignore the Presidential Records Act but displayed a blatant disregard for the security of potentially sensitive information that can impact the American public.
Kushner’s assertion that he satisfied the law’s records requirements by taking screenshots of his WhatsApp conversations and then sending them to his White House email misses the point. In light of the disregard this White House has shown for rules and norms, there is no reason the American people should take Kushner at his word that he properly preserved all of his official correspondence that took place using WhatsApp, or did so in the time required by law.
Presidential records are the property of the American people. Given the track record of this White House officials’ use of personal messaging accounts, Congress cannot afford to ignore civil society’s call for a real enforcement mechanism to deter actions that violate the PRA.
Right now, there is no incentive for officials to follow the law, because there is no way to hold anyone accountable for violations. Congress must hold substantive hearings to determine how best to curb this rampant problem, and the White House must issue a public statement about how it plans to effectively address this pattern of PRA violations by its own officials.
Open the Government is an inclusive, nonpartisan coalition that works to strengthen our democracy and empower the public by advancing policies that create a more open, accountable, and responsive government. www.openthegovernment.org