White House email rules
September 26, 2018
by David Gewirtz
There comes a time in every news cycle when we need (once again, in an apparently never-ending process) to educate over-enthusiastic and somewhat less-than-informed journalists about the laws pertaining to White House email.
This time, it’s Politico, which headlined with “Kushner used private email to conduct White House business,” and Newsweek with “Ivanka Trump used a personal email account for government work: exclusive.”
Before I dive back into the facts of White House email life once again, let’s get the inevitable political squabble over with. This article will not declare President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Senior Advisor to the President and Director of Office of American Innovation Jared Kushner, or the First Daughter and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump guilty or innocent of anything, email or otherwise.
Instead, we’re simply going to look at the question of private email and White House business, whatever that might entail.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Let’s get started with the big fact that many journalists either overlook or don’t understand. The law requires that individuals in the White House sometimes use personal (i.e., not government operated) email.
As absurd as it may seem — and it is absurd — there is a law, called the Hatch Act that specifically prevents government resources from being used for certain White House communications. You could write a book about the national security problems this law creates (and, in fact, I did), but the bottom line remains the same. White House officials must — must, must, must by law — sometimes use personal, private resources to communicate.