Remember how Donald Trump hammered on Hillary Clinton for using a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State? During the election, Trump went as far as wanting to put “Crooked Hillary” behind bars, because having staffers use emails not monitored by the government could be a bad thing. But according to a new report from Newsweek, key Trump staffers are using accounts running on the Republican National Committee’s private email server.
The staffers named in the report include Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, and Steve Bannon. Newsweek says:
The rnchq.org email address used by the Bush administration is now hosting active Trump staff email addresses, verifiable through the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). SMTP is the bridge between mail servers. The rnchq.org account is hosted by the same commercial server as it was during the Bush years—smartechcorp.net, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Trump wouldn’t be the first president to have staffers using RNC emails (which carry the domain RNCHQ.org) while also working in the White House. You may recall that under George W. Bush’s presidency, staffers including Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Scooter Libby, used their RNC accounts to conduct business. During inquests into Rove and Libby’s behavior, some 22 million emails were erased from those servers.
Using a separate email address isn’t illegal, and as Newsweek points out, it could make sense. Not all communications happening between staffers are going to concern official White House correspondence. Still, any Trump staffer using RNC emails are still beholden to the Disclosure Requirement For Official Business Conducted Using Electronic Messaging Accounts law that went into effect in 2014. According to that law, anyone who uses the RNC email for White House work has to forward or copy those communications to the government email system within 20 days.
Incidentally, the main reason that law exists is because of claims that the Bush administration was using the RNC email accounts to avoid the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which requires an archive of all presidential communications.
As Newsweek notes, it’s not just bad (and hypocritical) optics for the Trump administration to use private email servers; there are security concerns as well. Back in December, ABC reported that Russian hackers had successfully infiltrated RNC email accounts. Let’s just hope the Russians are done with that fun now that their buddy Donald is in the White House.