WhatsApp messages from Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner were turned over en masse to federal authorities prior to the Trump administration’s departure from power, according to a new public revelation by the independent government watchdog group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Previously, the Trump administration and Kushner in particular utilized a record-keeping policy under which screenshots of Kushner’s messages that he forwarded to official accounts were sufficient, but screenshots fail to capture critical data that completes an actual comprehensive portrait of the communications. The turned over messages from Kushner (and others) included the full data.
This is huge. Following our lawsuit, all of Jared Kushner’s WhatsApp messages will be saved in full, metadata and all, and not just by him sending screenshots to the archives, which was legitimately what he had been saying was his formal archival method.https://t.co/N4y0zhZeLP
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) February 14, 2021
Last year, CREW — alongside a handful of allied organizations — actually sued the Trump administration over their policy that allowed screenshots in place of comprehensive records. Now, the Biden administration has “revoked” that particular Trump era policy, CREW says, characterizing the development as a “victory for transparency.”
CREW President Noah Bookbinder commented, in part, as follows:
‘The Presidential Records Act exists to ensure that we understand what was going on behind closed doors and what we could do better in the future. The Trump administration will be remembered as the most corrupt administration in American history, which made it crucially important to obtain assurance through this lawsuit that administration officials would not destroy historically valuable records on their way out the door. With its new recordkeeping policy, the Biden administration has taken necessary steps to begin to bring transparency and accountability back to the White House.’
Anyone serving in the federal government could be expected to understand that screenshots of messages do not capture all relevant data regarding the communications, and Kushner repeatedly used his personal WhatsApp account for official business. Trump and his allies, of course, went on and on about Hillary Clinton’s usage of a private email account while serving as Secretary of State — but then Kushner used a private messaging account with abandon. According to CREW, federal authorities revealed as a part of their lawsuit that Kushner and other White House staff members were required to turn over full versions of their messages before leaving power, and this material, the organization says, is now in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Bookbinder added as follows:
‘In the future, we will need to be able to look back at the Trump administration and understand what exactly was going on, and by ensuring these documents were adequately and properly preserved, we believe we have saved documents from being lost to history.’
Before Biden took office, spokesperson Jen Psaki also announced that (unlike Trump) the Biden team would be releasing visitor logs covering core offices at the White House.