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Ivanka Trump used personal e-mail account to send e-mails about government business

WASHINGTON — Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of e-mails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials, and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of a personal account when reviewing e-mails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. This review revealed that throughout much of 2017, the unpaid senior adviser often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private e-mail account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s practices bore similarities to the personal e-mail use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. Trump attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her ‘‘Crooked Hillary’’ for using a personal e-mail account as secretary of state.

Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal e-mails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. Trump said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

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The White House referred requests for comment to Ivanka Trump’s attorney and ethics counsel, Abbe Lowell.

In a statement, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, acknowledged that the president’s daughter occasionally used her private e-mail before she was briefed on the rules, but he said none of her messages contained classified information.

‘‘While transitioning into government, after she was given an official account but until the White House provided her the same guidance they had given others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her personal account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,’’ he said in a statement.

Mirijanian said Ivanka Trump turned over all her government-related e-mails months ago so they could be stored permanently with other White House records.

And he stressed that her e-mail use was different than that of Clinton, who had a private e-mail server in the basement of her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. At one point, an archive of thousands of Clinton’s e-mails was deleted by a computer specialist amid a congressional investigation.

‘‘Ms. Trump did not create a private server in her house or office, no classified information was ever included, the account was never transferred at Trump Organization, and no e-mails were ever deleted,’’ Mirijanian said.

Like Trump, Clinton also said she was unaware of or misunderstood the rules. However, Clinton relied solely on a private e-mail system as secretary of state, bypassing government servers entirely.

Both Trump and Clinton relied on their personal attorneys to review their private e-mails and determine which messages should be retained as government records.

Clinton originally said none of the messages she sent or received were ‘‘marked classified.’’ The FBI later determined that 110 e-mails contained classified information at the time they were sent or received.

Austin Evers, executive director of the liberal watchdog group American Oversight, whose record requests sparked the White House discovery, said it strained credulity that Trump’s daughter did not know that government officials should not use private e-mails for official business.

‘‘There’s the obvious hypocrisy that her father ran on the misuse of personal e-mail as a central tenet of his campaign,’’ Evers said. ‘‘There is no reasonable suggestion that she didn’t know better. Clearly everyone joining the Trump administration should have been on high alert about personal e-mail use.’’

Ivanka Trump and her husband set up personal e-mails with the domain ‘‘ijkfamily.com’’ through a Microsoft system in December 2016, as they were preparing to move to Washington so Kushner could join the White House, according to people familiar with the arrangement.

The couple’s e-mails are prescreened by the Trump Organization for security problems such as viruses but are stored by Microsoft, the people said.

Trump used her personal account to discuss government policies and official business less than 100 times — often replying to other administration officials who contacted her through her private e-mail, according to people familiar with the review.

Another category of less-substantive e-mails may have also violated the records law: hundreds of messages related to her official work schedule and travel details that she sent herself and personal assistants who cared for her children and house, they said.

People close to Ivanka Trump said she never intended to use her private e-mail to shroud her government work. After she told White House lawyers she was unaware that she was breaking any e-mail rules, they discovered that she had not been receiving White House updates and reminders to all staff about prohibited use of private e-mail, according to people familiar with the situation.

Using personal e-mails for government business could violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all official White House communications and records be preserved as a permanent archive of each administration. It can also increase the risk that sensitive government information could be mishandled or hacked, revealing government secrets and risking harm to diplomatic relations and secret operations.

Ivanka Trump first used her personal e-mail to contact Cabinet officials in early 2017, before she joined the White House as an unpaid senior adviser, according to e-mails obtained by American Oversight.

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