Oversight chair threatens subpoena over Defense chief's emails

Haiyun Jiang

The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee is threatening to issue a subpoena if the Pentagon doesn’t provide more information about Defense Secretary Ash Carter's use of a personal email account for work.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked for a briefing in December after Carter’s use of a personal account came to light. In a letter dated Friday, March 18, Chaffetz said he has yet to receive the information he requested.

“Please provide the information I requested as soon as possible, but no later than March 25, 2016,” Chaffetz wrote to Carter. “Otherwise, the committee may use compulsory process to obtain documents and communications that will answer the questions that were initially raised on December 18, 2015.”

In December, The New York Times reported that Carter relied on a personal email account for some of his official duties during his first months at the Pentagon.

Carter has said his use of personal email was a mistake, but that he never sent classified information on the account.

The news came after months of backlash over Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of her personal email account hosted on a private server while serving as secretary of State.

The Republican response to Carter’s use of a personal account has been more muted than to Clinton’s, but some lawmakers have pledged to look into it.

After the Carter news broke, Chaffetz asked for unredacted copies of all of the Pentagon’s policies on using a personal account, as well as a briefing on how long Carter used a personal account, how many work emails were sent with the account, and whether any classified, sensitive or personally identifiable information was sent over the account, among other questions.

In his most recent letter to Carter, Chaffetz said he’s had a series of briefings and phone calls with the Pentagon. But those conversations haven’t talked specifically about Carter, he said, other than to acknowledge that an internal review is ongoing.

“The department was unwilling to disclose who is conducting the review, what the review is intended to cover, when it will be completed or any other information responsive to my request,” Chaffetz wrote.

“Now,” he added, “three months after my initial request, it is difficult to understand why the department has not been willing to provide detailed answers, and the department has not asserted a valid reason to withhold that information from the committee.”