After interview with White House whistleblower, House Oversight authorizes subpoena over security clearances for Jared Kushner, others

The committee wants to talk the former White House personnel security director.

April 2, 2019, 5:48 PM

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are intensifying their search for answers about White House security clearances,authorizing the subpoena of former White House security officer Carl Kline for his testimony before the committee.

The committee, which voted Tuesday, wants to talk to Kline, who was reportedly involved in granting high-level security clearance to Jared Kushner and others against the recommendations of security specialists. Chairman Elijah Cummings says the White House has not been cooperative in the growing probe of clearances given to members of the Trump administration.

In an earlier statement to ABC News, Kline's attorney Robert Driscoll said neither he nor Kline were "worried about the merits of this inquiry, as facts always win out in the end."

"Carl, is, however, caught in an inter branch struggle between Congress and the Executive. I am hopeful that smart people of good faith on all sides will resolve the legal and constitutional conflicts and allow Carl to voluntarily testify as I've proposed," Driscoll wrote.

In a new letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings detailed an interview with White House whistleblower Tricia Newbold, who currently serves as the adjudications manager in the personnel security office. Newbold told the committee that "she and other career officials adjudicated denials of dozens of applications for security clearance applications that were later overturned," according to the letter.

The news of the whistleblower's concerns was first reported by NBC News.

"As a result, she warned that security clearance applications for White House officials ‘were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security,'" Cummings writes.

During Newbold's interview she revealed to the committee she kept a working list starting in 2018 of White House employees who were denied security clearances, but then later overturned, according to the committee letter. Cummings says her list grew to 25 individuals that include two current senior White House officials, along with other individuals including contractors.

"According to Ms. Newbold, these individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct," Cummings wrote in a separate memo to all members of the committee. According to Cummings, Newbold said she is speaking out now because "this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office."

The ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, called this a "partisan attack on the White House" and took issue with Cummings' characterization of the 25 individuals.

"Chairman Cummings' investigation is not about restoring integrity to the security clearance process, it is an excuse to go fishing through the personal files of dedicated public servants," Jordan said in a statement. "Furthermore, the memo mischaracterizes the information shared by Ms. Newbold. For instance, the twenty-five examples of overruled recommendations by Ms. Newbold heralded by the Democrats include non-political officials such as a GSA custodian."

In a rebuttal memo, Republicans said Cummings "cherry-picked excerpts from Ms. Newbold's transcribed interview to release highly personal information to continue his partisan investigation of the White House." Republicans also said Newbold had "limited first-hand knowledge on particular security applicants and had trouble recalling specific detail of the majority of the 25 individuals.

When asked to respond to these claims by Republicans, Newbold's attorney told ABC News it's actually the opposite.

"Democrats! Republicans are cherry-picking her testimony," Ed Passman, her attorney, wrote in an email. "[Newbold] didn't have access to her files when she testified before the House Committee and couldn't realistically remember every case."

Cummings also writes he is open to foregoing interviews with other White House officials if the White House produces documents related to a number of current and former White House employees, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

The White House has faced mounting questions for months about issues with security clearances for dozens of administration officials who were operating under temporary clearances well into 2018. Two of the president's top aides, former White House staff secretary Rob Porter and personal aide John McEntee, departed the White House after flags were raised in their respective clearances.

The New York Times in February cited four sources who claim former chief of staff John Kelly said President Donald Trump ordered him to get a top-level security clearance for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, approved. ABC News has not independently confirmed the report, which cites a memo written by Kelly.

Trump told the Times earlier this year he "was never involved in his [Jared's] security" clearance. In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Abby Hunstman in February, Ivanka Trump said: " the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance, zero."

The White House has previously denied anything improper about the security clearance process, but has not responded to a request for comment on the testimony.

A senior administration official tells ABC News that "the White House has let [Democrats] review documents on the security clearance process, and the White House chief security officer briefed them for 90 minutes about the process. Chairman Cummings has been dismissive about this accommodation, and insists, unreasonably, on seeing private and confidential security clearance files."

In an interview Monday evening, Cummings said the allegations about irregularities in the White House security clearance process were a “million times worse” than concerns about the vulnerabilities of potential classified information on Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Republicans, Cummings said, "were worried that there would be some information on the server that may have gotten into the hands of the wrong person."

"Here, you’ve got all the secrets going to people who shouldn’t even have a security clearance, possibly."

Cummings said he launched the investigation in January "in response to grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump Administration."

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