If you’re a public official, your communications and documents are supposed to be accessible by the public. That’s not me being an absolutist on open government. That’s the law. And yet, here we are, watching an administration that rode into office on chants of “Lock her up!” once again conducting government business off the grid, using the same sort of private email accounts Trump repeatedly declared should have landed Hillary Clinton in the slammer.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has taken note of the latest violation of multiple laws by the Trump Administration and wants to know what the White House is going to do about it.
Jared Kushner’s shadow coronavirus task force appears to be violating both the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by using private email accounts with no assurance their communications are being preserved and by meeting in secret, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The failure of the White House to comply with any of the PRA and FACA requirements leaves the public in the dark about the work the shadow task force has done and the influence of private industries on the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
We the taxpaying people deserve to know what, if anything, Jared Kushner is doing to fight the spread of the virus. Kushner was put in charge of handling the business side of the pandemic response based on his impressive pandemic-fighting resume, which includes marrying Trump’s daughter and spending several years as a slumlord. Sure, this isn’t the first time important government work has been handed over to underqualified sycophants/relatives, but this time there’s actually life and death on the line.
What’s being done with our tax dollars by Kushner’s task force is being hidden from view through its members’ use of private email accounts. We all know history is written by the winners, but history can also remain unwritten by losers whose sole contribution to the effort appears to be making businesses feel better about endangering the lives of their employees and customers. Stashing away official communications on private email servers cuts the public out of the loop.
History is being unwritten as we speak. Here’s a senior White House official’s brutal summary of Kushner’s task force:
We don’t know who these people are. Who is this? We’re all getting these emails.
At least they’re getting the emails. It’s still unclear whether any of us in the general public will. That’s what CREW is trying to find out. Its letter to the White House’s legal rep, Pat Cipollone, reminds the lawyer of the law and the obligation the White House has to the American people.
We recognize the extraordinary emergency our nation faces and the need for the federal government to act quickly and decisively. At the same time, however, the need for transparency could not be greater. Americans need to know that our government is acting in our best interests; they need the kind of reassurance that full transparency in how and what the White House is doing brings. Of equal importance, we must have access in the future to a full record of how the President and his staff handled this crisis to learn from any mistakes made and improve on how we address future pandemics. Now, more than ever, we must be vigilant in complying with laws like the PRA and the FACA that were enacted to protect our nation’s interest in transparency and a full historic record. We therefore respectfully request that you ensure that the shadow task force complies immediately and fully with its statutory requirements under the PRA and FACA.
This is CREW basically telling the White House Counsel, “Hey, we don’t want to tell you how to do your job but, you know, do your damn job!” This would have been inexcusable even if the Trump administration hadn’t used “but her emails” as a platform plank. It’s unforgivable when it’s these hypocrites standing knee deep in a swamp they never intended to drain, running a behind-the-scenes corporate welfare effort under the guise of keeping the nation’s citizens alive and healthy.