White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner’s routine use of non-secure, non-official messaging applications to discuss official government business could violate the law, according to a letter sent to Kushner today by CREW warning him of his legal obligations to maintain and preserve presidential records, including his discussions of official government business using non-official messaging applications. Kushner is required to preserve those records under the Presidential Records Act, and the willful destruction or concealment of federal records is a federal crime.
According to multiple reports, Kushner routinely uses non-official messaging applications, including WhatsApp and Signal, to conduct government business. Kushner reportedly used these platforms to communicate with foreign leaders, his shadow coronavirus task force, and in other White House and government matters. Kushner has failed to provide assurances that he is properly preserving the presidential records stored in his non-official accounts.
“Jared Kushner using non-official messaging applications to conduct official government business is a violation of public trust and erodes the measures we have in place to ensure White House records are being properly preserved,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “As a White House Senior Advisor, Kushner is bound by the PRA, and long after his time in the White House has come to an end, we will need to be able to look back at how this administration operated in order to have the full picture of what was going on behind closed doors and to understand what we could do better in the future.”
The PRA requires the president and his staff to document, preserve and maintain records of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the president’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.” In 2017, the White House Counsel issued two memos reminding all White House personnel of their obligation to preserve and maintain official government records. The memos explicitly forbid the use of non-official messaging accounts for official business without prior authorization, and warned that willfully destroying or concealing federal records is a crime.
This is not the first time Kushner has attempted to skirt the PRA. In March, CREW sent a letter to the White House Counsel after it appeared that Kushner’s shadow coronavirus task force was violating both the PRA and Federal Advisory Committee Act by using private email accounts with no assurance their communications were being preserved.
“There is no excuse for hiding information from the public, and even from others in government, that affects people’s lives in an extraordinary time,” said Bookbinder. “As the American people turn to their elected officials for guidance, they need to know that their leaders are acting in accordance with the law. It would behoove Jared Kushner to remember his statutory obligations, just in case he has any lingering doubts or confusion about his responsibilities to the public.”