You may want to sit down while I tell you some shocking news: It appears that in 2016 when Republicans were contorted in paroxysms of rage and shouting “Lock her up!” over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, they may not have been motivated solely by their deep concern for secure communication management.
It's now clearer than ever that all their feigned outrage about Clinton's electronic communication didn't stop Trump administration officials from violating government policy when it came to their own. Even members of Trump's own family:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said Thursday that an attorney for Jared Kushner told him in December that the president’s son-in-law uses the encrypted messaging application WhatsApp for official business, including with people overseas. [...]
The use of messaging services such as WhatsApp could run afoul of White House policy and the Presidential Records Act, which prohibits White House officials from sending a record “using a nonofficial electronic message account” unless the messages are copied to an official account within 20 days.
According to a Feb. 22, 2017, directive from the White House Counsel’s Office, all White House personnel are required to “conduct all work related communications on your official EOP email account” except under “emergency circumstances.”
If you’re surprised that Kushner would disobey a directive not to use outside communication tools to conduct government business, I might remind you of the time after the 2016 election when he suggested to the Russians that they set up a secret communication channel inside the Russian embassy so the Trump team could talk to the Kremlin without U.S. intelligence agencies knowing about it. Even the Russians thought the idea was insane.
In addition, Ivanka Trump has also been using private email to conduct government business. This is a story that comes up periodically; back in October 2017, we learned that Jared, Stephen Bannon, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn, and Stephen Miller had all used private emails for government work.
And last fall The Post reported that, throughout much of 2017, Ivanka Trump "often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.”
Meanwhile, do you remember how outraged Republicans were when Clinton had her lawyer separate personal emails from work-related ones and forwarded only the latter to the government? Ivanka Trump did exactly the same thing.
We should say that these actions would not violate the Presidential Records Act if every email and message is copied to a government account within 20 days. I’ll let you speculate on whether Jared Kushner — who had to amend his financial disclosures at least 40 times because of errors and omissions — has been diligent and conscientious about screenshotting all of his WhatsApp messages and forwarding them to government accounts, as he claims he has been doing.
But after the campaign Donald Trump ran in 2016, you would think it would take an absolutely stunning amount of arrogance to do what Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and others in the administration have done. And that’s true. But it’s also an acknowledgement that all the criticism about Clinton’s emails was utterly phony from the beginning, and everyone knew it. It was play-acting, pretend, feigned outrage, nothing more than a channel through which Trump voters’ misogynistic rage at Clinton could be expressed.
They were shouting “Lock her up!,” but they might as well have been shouting “Burn her! Burn the witch!”
The only problem was that, even if Trump, his family, everyone who worked for him and his voters all knew it was a put-on, the media treated it not only as if the outrage were sincere but also as if the underlying conduct were the single most important issue in the presidential campaign.
Through their coverage choices, they told us there was literally nothing — not health care, not foreign policy, not the economy, not climate change, not whether Trump was compromised by the Russian government, nothing — as critical to explore and understand as whether Clinton violated government policy on email management. As one study found, “in just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.”
But now that Trump is president, we can all agree that it was a big joke, and the only reason to criticize Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is the charge of hypocrisy, a charge that never amounts to much anyway. We don’t have to entertain the idea that they should be jailed. We’re all too savvy and clever for that.
But perhaps we might consider not letting Republicans shape the media’s coverage with their next pretend outrage about, oh I don’t know, whether Elizabeth Warren’s great-great-grandfather was a Cherokee, so we can focus on things that actually matter. Or is that too much to ask?