Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2017 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has used WhatsApp for official business with foreign governments, possibly in violation of federal law.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, disclosed the use of private messaging services by both Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, in addition to their use of a private e-mail account.
Cummings said the communications were confirmed by Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Donald Trump and his 2016 campaign damned Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for e-mails when she was Secretary of State. The FBI did not charge Clinton over the matter, but Trump and his allies continue their derision of Clinton — including to deflect from the Trump-Russia investigation and from questions over the conduct of Trump and his family.
Lowell could not say if Kushner communicated classified information via WhatsApp, saying it was “above my pay grade”. He tried to defend Kushner against violations of federal record laws with the assertion that Kushner took screenshots of the messages and sent them to his official White House account or the National Security Council.
The lawyer denied that he confirmed Kushner’s WhatsApp communications foreign “leaders”, saying it was only “some people”. He added that he was not privy to details of Kushner’s use: “That is a question for the White House counsel, not me.”
Cummings wrote in a Thursday letter that the findings added urgency to the Oversight Committee’s investigation of possible violations of law by members of the Trump administration. He accused the White House of stonewalling by refusing to hand over information requested months ago.
Financial and Political Conficts of Interest?
CNN reported in October that Kushner had communicated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman via WhatsApp.
Asked in December by Cummings and Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy if Kushner was cleared to use the messaging service, Lowell suggested that the lawmakers ask the National Security Council and the White House.
Questions have long been raised about Kushner’s position as a White House advisor and possible conflicts of interest. In his application for a security clearance in 2017, Kushner failed to disclose many of his financial interests and meetings with foreign officials. Among these were a June 2016 meeting with three Kremlin-linked envoys and contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In December 2016, Kushner — seeking loans for a $1.9 billion mortgage payment on a Manhattan high-rise building — met the head of the Russian State-owned bank Vnesheconombank.
Kushner also sought loans for the Manhattan building from Gulf states, as US intelligence agencies said foreign governments such as China, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE had described how they could manipulate Kushner for leverage on US foreign policy.
The concerns were so great that Kushner was denied a top-secret security clearance, but he was given an interim clearance as Donald Trump proclaimed his son-in-law as the envoy for the Middle East and the chief contact for other governments.
When Kushner’s clearance was downgraded from interim top secret to secret, limiting his access to classified information, Trump ordered officials in May 2018 to restore the top-secret status.