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Ethics Watchdog: Jared Kushner’s ‘Shadow’ COVID-19 Task Force Appears to Violate at Least Two Laws


In addition to being tasked with negotiating a Middle East peace plan, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner earlier this month formed his own task force to assist the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kushner “shadow taskforce”–comprised of government officials and private sector advisors–is primarily focused on expanding access to coronavirus testing, but has the coalition been violating federal laws aimed at ensuring government transparency and accountability?

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said as much on Friday. According to the group, Kushner’s team, which exists independent of the Trump administration’s official coronavirus task force headed up by Vice President Mike Pence, appears to be in violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

“Mr. Kushner’s shadow task force appears to be violating key aspects of the PRA, and his use of it implicates the FACA’s public transparency provisions,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone Friday. “The extraordinary measures needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic make these transparency and accountability requirements even more important.”

The PRA, enacted in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, requires presidential administrations to retain all “documentary material” of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.”

“Of particular concern, these outside advisers do not appear to be following proper governmental protocols,” Bookbinder continued. “For example, they are using private email addresses to email large groups of government employees, creating security concerns and sowing further confusion.”

The group also highlighted likely violations of FACA, which requires committees with non-governmental employees that advise the president to publicly disclose “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” them.

“If this reporting is accurate, Mr. Kushner’s use of a committee composed of federal employees and non-governmental members to solicit advice on how the White House should address the coronavirus pandemic implicates the FACA,” the letter said. “The failure of the White House to comply with any of the FACA’s requirements leaves the public in the dark about the advice the shadow task force has rendered and whether the committee is ‘fairly balanced’ as the statute requires.”

You can read the full letter to Cipollone below.

CREW Letter by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.