National Archives launches investigation into Wilbur Ross's private email use

National Archives launches investigation into Wilbur Ross's private email use
© Greg Nash

The National Archives has launched a probe into Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossSpace race is on: US can't afford congressional inaction in this critical economic sector Trump escalates fight over tax on tech giants The Hill's Morning Report - Intel panel readies to hand off impeachment baton MORE’s use of a private email account for government business, according to Politico.

The news outlet noted a public letter sent by the archives earlier this month to the Commerce Department’s chief information officer that said that “the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has become aware of a potential unauthorized disposition of U.S. Department of Commerce records.”

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Lawrence Brewer, chief records officer of the U.S. government, asked in the letter for a response from the department within 30 days, citing a Washington Post article’s assertion that Ross “used personal email for official business.”

The watchdog group Democracy Forward obtained government-related emails from Ross’s private account through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which were disclosed in a Post profile of Ross in September.

Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys said in a court filing Wednesday that Commerce should not be forced to directly search Ross’s personal accounts, despite previous searches finding 280 email chains over 16 months turning up references to his private accounts, with many of the messages concerning Ross’s travel arrangements.

“On multiple occasions, the Secretary ... directed the initial email sender to use his official government email address on future communications regarding agency business,” wrote Michael Cannon, an attorney for the Commerce Department.

DOJ attorney Johnny Walker argued a search would only turn up emails already in Commerce’s system.

“Even if the Secretary did occasionally use a personal email account in connection with agency business, those communications are documented in the files already produced,” Walker wrote, according to Politico.

“At issue here is whether Commerce must access and search a high-level official’s personal email account for merely duplicative emails. It should not,” he added.

"We look forward to engaging and cooperating with the National Archives and Records Administration on their investigation, which originated from baseless allegations in news reports," a Commerce Department spokesperson told The Hill.

Updated at 1:50 p.m.