House Democrats demand security clearances information from White House
Washington: A Democratic House committee chairman has demanded key documents and interview potential witnesses from the White House in the wake of a report that President Donald Trump personally intervened to grant his son-in-law a top-secret clearance despite legal and national security concerns.
The chairman, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland who leads the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Friday accused the White House in a new letter of delaying his requests for information and implied that if it did not comply voluntarily, he would issue a subpoena to compel its cooperation, reports The New York Times.
He said Thursday’s report, published by The New York Times, added new concerns that Trump was lying to the public about his role in the clearance process to existing and broader questions about irregularities surrounding who should have access to sensitive government secrets.
“If true, these new reports raise grave questions about what derogatory information career officials obtained about (Jared) Kushner to recommend denying him access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel.
The letter went on to ask about “why President Trump concealed his role in overruling that recommendation… and why your office is continuing to withhold key documents and witnesses from this Committee”.
Thursday’s report said that Trump’s intervention concerned senior administration officials that John F. Kelly, the then White House chief of staff, documented the action in a contemporaneous internal memo that said he had been “ordered” to grant ushner a top-secret clearance.
The Times also reported that Donald F. McGahn II, the then White House counsel, wrote a memo of his own documenting concerns raised by the CIA and other officials about Kushner.
McGahn, the memo noted, had recommended against giving him such broad access to the government’s secrets.
In January, Trump told The New York Times that he had no role in Kushner’s clearance.
Cummings has been pursuing reported irregularities by the White House and the Trump transition team since 2017, when Republicans were in control of the House.
But he started a broad inquiry of his own last month after taking control of the oversight panel, Congress’s most muscular investigative body, which he said he hoped would shine light on any national security risks that may exist.
He has specifically requested information on the clearances of nine current and former administration officials, including Kushner.
Cummings has also asked for documents related to a review of the security clearance process that Kelly conducted in 2018 which concluded there were serious flaws in the system meant to vet high-level officials. He also wants to talk to “all personnel in the White House Personnel Security Office”.
The White House, he said on Friday, has thus far not complied.