White House touts security clearance changes after Oversight presses for Porter details

White House touts security clearance changes after Oversight presses for Porter details
© Greg Nash

The White House on Thursday declined to comply with a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee request for information on former staff secretary Rob Porter, and instead detailed changes to its security clearance process since Porter resigned.

In a letter to Oversight Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGOP chairman threatens subpoena for FBI records on Clinton probe Trump unrestrained in latest attacks of Mueller probe Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit MORE (R-S.C.), White House legislative affairs director Marc Short did not answer questions about whether the White House followed the proper security clearance process with Porter, or when staffers knew of allegations that he abused his ex-wives.

Instead, Short outlined the White House’s recent changes to its security clearance policies, according to the letter obtained by Talking Points Memo


The letter includes a copy of a memo issued last month by White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE that detailed changes to how the White House deals with interim security clearances. Those changes led to President TrumpDonald John TrumpLieu: There will be 'widespread civil unrest' if Trump fires Mueller Attorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Trump tariffs not helpful for nuclear talks, South Korea says MORE's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller Overnight Finance: Congress races to finish .2T funding bill | What to look for in omnibus | AT&T merger trial kicks off | Stocks fall on tech troubles | Trump targets Venezuelan cryptocurrency | Record SEC whistleblower payout Email service: White House staffer was a 'password idiot' MORE and others having their clearances downgraded from “top secret” to “secret.” 

The memo also established a working group to streamline standards for security clearances moving forward.

“These efforts are intended to complement necessary government-wide changes,” Short wrote.

“We would be pleased to update you and others on the progress of the working group at the appropriate time,” he added.

Porter resigned last month after allegations he abused his two ex-wives became public. Kelly and other White House staffers initially defended Porter, and said they only learned of the allegations when they were reported in the press.

However, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that the bureau notified the White House months earlier about the allegations that turned up during Porter's background check.

A few days later, Gowdy said his committee had launched an investigation into the handling of the accusations against Porter. 

He then wrote to the White House asking for information on the security clearance process and whether it was followed with Porter. He also asked for details on when senior officials at the White House were made aware of accusations of domestic violence against the former staff secretary.

“Whether or not there’s a security at issue or not, I have real issues about how someone like this could be considered for employment whether there’s a security clearance or not,” Gowdy said at the time.