House panel votes to issue subpoenas over White House clearances
The House Oversight Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to subpoena Carl Kline, the former director of personnel security at the White House, as part of its investigation into the White House security clearance process. And the committee also voted in favor of subpoenas for documents and records from Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said after the vote that he wants to talk to Kline about the decisions to overrule career officials who had rejected dozens of White House security clearances. Cummings said he wants to determine “whether this was a decision on this part — a decision on the president’s part — but more significantly, why that decision was made. I just don’t know.”
The committee vote came after a whistleblower and longtime White House security adviserthat she and her colleagues had denied dozens of security clearance applications that were then issued anyway.
Tricia Newbold, who adjudicated security clearances for the office, told the House Oversight Committee that decisions on clearance applications for White House officials weren’t always made in the “best interest of national security,” according to a memo sent by Chairman Elijah Cummings to members of the committee on Monday.
Cummings declined to confirm whether Kline had received information on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances. Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, worked at the White House for over a year on an interim security clearance. Cummings, asked by reporters whether he would need to talk to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, said he would “cross that bridge when I get to it.”
A top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, told reporters that the Democrats’ efforts Tuesday were a “political show,” and said this was “all about attacking the president.”
Newbold said that, in 2018, she began keeping a list of the White House employees and officials whose rejections were overturned. Over the course of the year, she said, her list grew to 25 people, including “two current senior White House officials.”
According to Newbold, the White House officials issued security clearances over her objections “had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”
Democrats on the committee have also been seeking documents related to the decision by Ross to add a question to the 2020 Census concerning citizenship status, a move that was opposed by former census chiefs who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Opponents of the citizenship question say it could discourage many immigrants and non-citizens from participating in the census.
At a hearing in March, Democrats on the committee interrogated Ross about his communications on the citizenship question — before he announced the change in March 2018 — with immigration hardliners including then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.