Members of Congress unlike cabinet secretaries are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The rules that govern the way lawmakers may use email are different from those applied to the executive branch, the National Journal
The public is not entitled to access the emails of lawmakers. FOIA
applies only to the executive branch and not to Congress or the judiciary.
Members of Congress are generally allowed to use personal email accounts for work though they are prohibited from using House or Senate.gov email accounts for campaign purposes or to raise funds, according to the House Ethics Manual.
Senators and House members may use campaign money to purchase a "personal digital assistant" and use the same device for campaign and official purposes, according to both the Senate and House ethics manuals.
"These are the differences, and I think when one steps from one world into the other you have to be careful to make sure you know that different rules may apply," Rob Walker, former chief counsel for both the House and Senate ethics committees, told the Journal.
Had former secretary of state Hillary Clinton stayed in the Senate, how she handled her emails would be beyond the purview of the inquisitive, according to the Journal.
Walker would advise members to nonetheless restrict their use of official accounts for personal purposes. Though an "I'll pick up the milk on the way home" note to a spouse is permitted.
The digital records of lawmakers are retained by the National Archives and kept closed for at least 20 years in the case of the Senate, and at least 30 years for the House, the Journal reported.
Constitutional experts do not agree over whether lawmakers' email enjoy the benefits of the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause — which is intended to protect them from arrest related to their legislative work in office — if they are under criminal investigation, according to The Washington Post.
Though not "absolutely required," Walker advises members to use official email for work because it is protected under the Speech or Debate Clause and so that recipients can be certain of the authorized nature of the correspondence," the Journal reported.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.