Cummings uses Obama leftover’s ‘grave’ concerns as excuse to probe White House

Lawmakers were in an uproar as a White House staffer’s allegations of the failures in the White House security clearance system were released in a memo by House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings.

The Maryland Democrat released a 10-page memo on Monday detailing the “grave” concerns of Tricia Newbold, a career official in the Executive Office of the President for 18 years who spoke to the committee about “the grave security risks she has been witnessing first-hand over the past two years,” The Hill reported.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The government employee was interviewed privately by the committee in order “to expose grave and continuing failures of the White House security clearance system, including the security clearance adjudications of senior White House officials,” Cummings’ memo claimed.

Newbold alleged that more than two dozen times, she and other career officials were overruled by Trump administration officials when they tried to block clearances to officials and contractors who had “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds. The whistleblower reportedly kept a list of those who had their denials overturned,  naming 25 officials, including two current senior White House officials not named in the memo.

“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,” the memo stated.

Cummings requested documents for current and former officials, including Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump, current national security adviser John Bolton, former national security adviser Michael Flynn as well as former staff secretary Rob Porter.

Cummings accused the White House of “obstructing” his committee’s investigation in a separate letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, noting that a vote is set for Tuesday on authorizing a subpoena for Carl Kline to appear before the committee. Kline was the former personnel security director at the White House who served for the first two years of President Trump’s administration.

According to Fox News:

Newbold said she raised her concerns up the chain of command in the White House to no avail. Instead, she said, the White House retaliated, suspending her in January for 14 days without pay for not following a new policy requiring that documents be scanned as separate PDF files rather than one single PDF file.

Newbold said that when she returned to work in February, she was cut out of the security clearance process and removed from a supervisory responsibility.

 

“In light of the grave reports from this whistleblower—and the ongoing refusal of the White House to provide the information we need to conduct our investigation—the Committee now plans to proceed with compulsory process and begin authorizing subpoenas, starting at tomorrow’s business meeting,” Cummings wrote to Cipollone.

Cummings added that “committee staff have spoken with other whistleblowers who corroborated Ms. Newbold’s account, but they were too afraid about the risk to their careers to come forward publicly.”

The House Oversight Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan slammed Cummings for “using this sensitive topic as a pretense for a partisan attack on the White House.”

The Ohio Republican blasted Cummings’s 10-page memo which he said  “cherry-picked” excerpts from Newbold’s testimony and that it “mischaracterizes” information from her. He noted that Newbold’s interview took place Saturday and Republicans “were not informed of the interview’s topic or witness until 3:30 the day before.” Jordan also pointed out that some of the 25 examples that were cited included “non-political officials such as a GSA custodian.”

“Chairman Cummings has departed from longstanding bipartisan oversight of the security clearance process to advance his partisan efforts to attack the President. His unilateral decision to release cherry-picked excerpts from one witness so early into an investigation is far from the constructive oversight he promised,” he said in the statement.

An investigation into the White House security clearance process was announced by Cummings back in January, along with requests for documents and interviews with White House personnel security officials, which Cummings claimed the White House counsel’s office has not provided.

Cipollone responded to Cummings’ letter in March, stating that the “decision to grant or deny a security clearance is a discretionary function that belongs exclusively to the Executive Branch” and accused the committee of making “unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive demands” beyond its responsibilities.

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Frieda Powers

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