Thursday, 1 Oct 2020

Melania Trump reportedly used her personal email for government business

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – Melania Trump used a personal email account and encrypted messaging apps like Signal to conduct government business, a former friend and associate of the first lady told The Washington Post.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who served as Melania Trump’s senior adviser and had previously been a close friend, told the newspaper in an interview that the two women did not use official White House email accounts when they communicated frequently about official topics.

Wolkoff recently published Melania And Me: The Rise And Fall Of My Friendship With The First Lady, but the allegation about Melania Trump’s use of personal email accounts is not included in the book.

The use of personal email accounts was at the heart of President Donald Trump’s most vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

He repeatedly accused her of having deleted 33,000 emails from a personal server while she was secretary of state.

Clinton said the emails were personal in nature, and an FBI investigation found no evidence that they were deleted deliberately.

As first lady, Melania Trump is not a government employee and is not automatically covered by the same laws that would govern communications by a Cabinet secretary or other administration officials, according to ethics experts.

But her discussion of government business and information on unofficial accounts could still be violating some laws.

“It raises some legal questions that need to be looked at about whether any of the emails would trigger a provision of the Presidential Records Act,” which requires that communications be permanently preserved and archived, said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group.

There have been earlier reports about the first lady’s use of messaging apps.

In 2018, The New York Times reported that she used “email, text, phone calls and Signal to keep in touch with her contacts.”

Libowitz said the use of personal accounts by the first lady also fit a broader pattern in which members of the Trump administration had sought to avoid transparency by using personal email accounts and messaging apps.

“There’s this pattern of avoiding record-keeping, so it’s harder to give the benefit of the doubt here,” he said.

White House officials and Wolkoff did not respond to requests for comment.

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