House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records

House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records
© Greg Nash

The House Oversight and Reform Committee demanded Monday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosFormer DeVos chief of staff joins anti-Trump group Ex-Pence aide throws support behind Biden, citing Trump's virus response OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' MORE turn over all emails from her personal account related to official government business.

The request comes as the panel expands its investigation into whether the Department of Education is in compliance with the Federal Records Act.

In a letter sent to DeVos on Monday, committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: US won't join global coronavirus vaccine initiative | Federal panel lays out initial priorities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution | NIH panel: 'Insufficient data' to show treatment touted by Trump works House Oversight Democrats to subpoena AbbVie in drug pricing probe Democratic chair subpoenas postmaster general for documents on reforms MORE (D-Md.) explained he was expanding the investigation to include the emails following “disturbing new revelations” that DeVos had “violated federal law” and withheld information from the committee in the course of its investigation.

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Cummings’s concerns centered on findings from a report published by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in May, which found that DeVos used a personal email account to conduct some official business and did not forward these emails to her official account as required by law. 

The report noted that the OIG “found only a limited number of emails sent to or from her private accounts in the Department email system,” but noted these emails were preserved only in the accounts of Education Department employees they were sent to, not in DeVos’s official account. 

The report also noted that 78 percent of political officials surveyed by the OIG at the Department of Education admitted to using their personal emails to conduct some official business.

Department of Education Press Secretary Liz Hill pushed back against the expansion of the investigation, telling The Hill that “this is nothing more than political grandstanding. The IG has already done a thorough report on this issue. There is nothing to see here.”

Cummings gave DeVos until July 29 to respond to multiple previous letters sent by the committee on the subject of these emails and to questions around whether she and any noncareer Education Department official used personal email accounts, text messages, or encrypted software to conduct business. 

Furthermore, Cummings asked that DeVos produce copies of all messages she and any noncareer Education Department employee sent or received from a nongovernment email or other electronic messaging account in regards to official business during her tenure as secretary. 

The investigation into the Education Department is part of a larger probe into the email practices of 55 federal agencies that was launched in 2017 by Cummings and former Oversight committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah).

Cummings and other committee leaders repeatedly sent letters over the past two years to the Education Department asking for information on whether DeVos or any noncareer officials used personal emails for conducting business.

Updated at 5:46 p.m.