Top Republican warns White House to comply with request for security clearance information

PHOTO: House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, talks with the committees ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 22, 2015, prior to the start of the committees hearing on Benghazi. PlayEvan Vucci/AP Photo
WATCH Kushner's security clearance downgraded: Sources

The White House has snubbed a request for staff security clearance information from the House Oversight Committee, prompting a warning from the Republican chairman and calls for a subpoena from the top Democrat on the panel.

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In a letter to the committee's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., delivered Thursday night, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short offered a brief update on new efforts to reform the security clearance process after the Rob Porter scandal, and promised to brief Congress on any progress, but failed to turn over any of the documents and information specifically requested by Gowdy last month.

That response is "inadequate," Amanda Gonzalez, a Gowdy spokesperson, said in a statement Friday, adding that Gowdy has "communicated to the White House that we expect full compliance," and is working to schedule a meeting with White House officials.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee's ranking member, who has repeatedly requested security clearance information from the White House for months, called the White House response “completely unacceptable – under any reasonable standard” and called on Gowdy to compel the White House to respond.

“It is now clear that the White House will not respond to this Committee unless it is compelled to do so,” he wrote in a letter to Gowdy. “If you decline to issue this subpoena yourself, then I ask that you step aside and allow Members of the Committee to debate and vote on a motion to issue this subpoena.”

The White House, Cummings noted in his letter, declined to provide information requested by the committee on the use of private email at the White House and White House officials’ use of private jets.

A spokesperson for Gowdy declined to comment on the request from Cummings.

PHOTO: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, May 17, 2017, in Washington. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, May 17, 2017, in Washington.

As part of his investigation into interim security clearances in the executive branch, Gowdy wrote to chief of staff John Kelly on Feb. 15 requesting a “list of employees” in the White House with pending security clearances or clearances that had been resolved since President Trump’s inauguration, along with details of the background check processes, and the level of clearance issued to each staffer.

He also asked for information about White House clearances, whether the handling of Porter’s clearance was consistent with White House standards, when the White House learned of the former staff secretary’s background check issues and when his interim clearance was issued.

Short also sent the committee a copy of a previously-released memo issued by Kelly on reforms to the security clearance process at the White House.

PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, right, and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter walk the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Aug. 4, 2017. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, right, and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter walk the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Aug. 4, 2017.

While it is not unusual for the White House to resist congressional attempts at oversight, especially from the opposing party, Democrats have accused the Trump administration of purposefully ignoring requests for information from the minority.

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.