House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said Monday that he is expanding an investigation into the use of personal email by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Cummings told DeVos in a letter that his move came after “disturbing new revelations” released by the Education Department’s inspector general in May about how DeVos had used personal email while on the job.
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“New information has now come to light indicating that you and other Department officials violated the Department’s prohibition on using personal email accounts to conduct official business, violated the requirement in the Federal Records Act to forward these emails to your official account within 20 days, and violated the requirement in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to produce relevant records in response to public requests,” wrote Cummings (D-Md.).
Cummings told DeVos the new information indicates that she “withheld from the Committee information it has been seeking on a bipartisan basis over the past two years.” He also sought new related documents by July 29.
In response, Liz Hill, a department spokesperson, said the letter was “nothing more than political grandstanding.”
“The IG has already done a thorough report on this issue. There is nothing to see here,” Hill said in an email.
The IG said DeVos used personal email to conduct government business on a “limited” basis, but in those cases, the emails were “not always being properly preserved.”
The IG said the personal emails to and from DeVos should have been forwarded to her department email account, but instead were preserved in the accounts of other department political employees included on the messages.
The IG also identified one instance in which the department said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that there were no “responsive documents” found. But the IG was able to find emails that were responsive to that request.
The use of personal email by government officials to conduct official business has been a hot issue since the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump sharply criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for using personal email while serving as secretary of State.
Cummings said his committee’s investigation into the use of personal email for official business has been ongoing for more than two years under Republican and Democratic chairmen. He said the inquiry began in March 2017 across 55 federal agencies.
According to a press release, Cummings joined former Chairmen Jason Chaffetz and Trey Gowdy, both Republicans, in requesting documents from the Department of Education. “In both instances, the Department refused to provide any of the requested information about employees who used personal email or text accounts for official business. Instead, the Department only described its policy prohibiting the use of personal accounts for official business,” the Cummings release said.
Michael Stratford contributed to this report.