House Oversight Committee, White House in standoff over viewing security documents

This comes a day after the White House missed a deadline to turn in information.

March 5, 2019, 5:23 PM

The House Oversight Committee and the White House are in a standoff over viewing security documents just a day after the administration ignored a deadline to turn over information related to what the committee alleges are "security clearance abuses.”

“The White House appears to be arguing that Congress has no authority to examine decisions by the Executive Branch that impact our national security—even when the President’s former National Security Advisor has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with foreign government officials," Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md, said in a statement, referencing the president’s first national security adviser, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn.

"There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisors to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people….The White House security clearance system is broken, and it needs both congressional oversight and legislative reform,” Cummings said.

The White House argues they have responded in good faith and have even "offered to make available an official from the Personnel Security Office to provide a briefing and to provide documents describing the security clearance process" according to a letter the White House sent to Cummings Tuesday.

"Although we are prepared to continue negotiations in good faith, the Committee seeks unilateral concessions without any offer of accommodation on its part, and then complains that the White House has refused to simply tum over everything the Committee inappropriately seek," White House counsel Pat Cipollone writes.

But Cummings suggested the White House’s offer to cooperated meant mere access to broad policy documents and procedural briefings.

He said last week that the White House has not been cooperative in a growing probe of security clearances given to members of the Trump administration and gave the White House a Monday deadline to respond to the committee's request.

PHOTO: White House adviser Jared Kushner waves as he arrives at the Office of the United States Trade Representative for talks on trade with Canada, Aug. 29, 2018, in Washington D.C.
White House adviser Jared Kushner waves as he arrives at the Office of the United States Trade Representative for talks on trade with Canada, Aug. 29, 2018, in Washington D.C.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP, FILE

The accusation comes on the heels of a stunning report in the New York Times on Thursday, citing 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.

PHOTO: An undated photo of the exterior of The White House.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

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

The House Oversight Committee recently announced its own security clearance investigation -- including a review of Kushner’s clearance.

“The security clearance process is supposed to function in an even-handed and neutral manner based on the national security interests of the United States," Chairman Elijah Cummings said in a statement Thursday. "This latest report indicates that President Trump may have granted access to our most sensitive classified information to his son-in-law against the advice of career staff -- directly contradicting the President’s public denials that he played any role."

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.