A sharply divided House panel voted Thursday to authorize subpoenas for the White House emails and electronic communications sent on private devices by Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and others.
The decision came after a feisty partisan debate that at times touched on the controversy involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, as well as earlier — and unrelated — testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted 23-16 on party lines to authorize subpoenas for the records of “non-career officials at the White House.” They include the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, Kushner and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Legal counsel for Ivanka Trump has said that she quickly took action two years ago, after learning her communications might violate federal guidelines.
Before the vote, members of both parties sparred over what Republicans complained is a “fishing expedition.” Democrats argued they need to uphold the Presidential Records Act and federal guidelines for White House communications.
Several times during the debate, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., had to gavel the proceedings back to order as lawmakers at times talked over each other.
“Shame on this body,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, after criticizing Democrats for not taking on broader issues that he said were more important to Americans.
“We’ve heard from you,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
“And you’ll continue to hear from me, in defense of this country,” Roy said, as Cummings again intervened.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said the committee needed to be consistent in its protection of White House communications, referring to the “hullabaloo” caused years earlier by the discovery that Clinton had emails on her private server.
“The personal counsel for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump confirmed to the committee that Ivanka Trump continues to receive emails related to official business on her personal email account,” Raskin said.
But Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, suggested the situation involving Clinton was more serious, involving tens of thousands of emails that were destroyed. President Donald Trump at one point tweeted a report from a conservative news outlet suggesting that Clinton’s emails had been hacked, which the FBI denied.
“I can’t think of a single reason for this request … aside from wanting to pursue the emails of the president’s daughter and son-in law,” Jordan said, calling it “inappropriate” and an abuse of the committee’s authority.
Kushner, a White House senior adviser, has come under scrutiny for using WhatsApp — an encrypted messaging application — to reach out to foreign contacts.
As lawmakers discussed the matter of subpoenas, the political after effects of Wednesday’s hearings featuring Mueller were still in play.
“Yesterday, right next door, Democrats had Bob Mueller testify,” Jordan said, referring to the nearby hearing room for the House Judiciary Committee. “They were hoping his testimony would help their crazy impeachment plans. Instead, it was a total bust.”
Jordan said Democrats didn’t “waste any time” going after the emails of the president’s family, saying it’s “purely for politics.”
But Democratic members said they are trying to keep the Trump administration accountable.
After presiding over the contentious hearing, Cummings gaveled it to a close.
“And have a good recess,” he said, as lawmakers filed out. After this week, the House will be in recess for the rest of the summer, with lawmakers scheduled to return Sept. 9.