EXCLUSIVE: Career officials rebut claims of White House interference in security clearance process

Two career White House security officials have testified in a closed door session with the House Oversight Committee that no political pressure was asserted on their office in determining security clearances, according to a GOP staff memo obtained by Hill.TV.

The testimony could deal a blow to Democratic assertions that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE and the White House counsel might have used undue influence on the process to win clearances for his son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCareer State official warned about Biden's son: report Buttigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates MORE and his daughter Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpCareer State official warned about Biden's son: report Trump speaks with NASA astronauts on all-female spacewalk Biden praises Buttigieg for criticizing GOP attacks: 'That's a good man' MORE

The fracas over security clearances erupted in April 2019 when career staffer Tricia Newbold testified to the House Oversight Committee that her then supervisor Carl Kline overruled several of her security clearance determinations because of political influence. 

Newbold specifically alleged that at least two senior government officials were given high-level security clearances despite disqualifying information. Newbold also expressed concern over new policies that Kline put into place surrounding the security clearance process. Newbold’s testimony received wall to wall news coverage and appeared to validate long held suspicions and reporting that the White House security clearance process had run amok under Trump.

But the new testimony contradicts Newbold. 

Career White House security official Crede Bailey testified to Oversight, according to the GOP memo, that he at no point felt pressure from anyone at the White House to determine a security clearance one way or the other.

Bailey further told the committee that as far as he knows Trump has never ordered a security clearance be issued to any specific individual. He also defended Kline’s conduct while in office, expressing the “utmost confidence” in his judgement. 

Bailey, the  chief security officer at The White House, also defended Kline’s restructuring of the security clearance process, policies which Newbold questioned in her testimony before the committee in April.

Bailey said Newbold’s criticisms of the process “stemmed from her lack of understanding and experience across government,” according to the Republican committee staff memo. 

“Today’s suggestion by House Republicans that the White House has been cooperative in our Committee’s investigation of security clearance abuses is inconsistent with reality," said House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore mayor looks to rename downtown courthouse after Cummings Cummings to lie in state at the Capitol Gowdy remembers political opponent, good friend Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Md.) in a statement to The Hill in response to the memo.

"The White House has refused to produce even one document to the Committee—not a single piece of paper—and it has blocked every question about the security clearance process for every White House official during the interviews we have tried to conduct," Cummings continued. "During the Obama Administration, there was no allegation too small for Republicans to investigate, but now that President Trump is in the Oval Office, there is no scandal too big for them to ignore.”

Former career employee Cory Louie also testified that at no time in his two week tenure in the security office under the Trump administration did he ever feel undue political influence on the security clearance process. 

Earlier, Kline had disputed Newbold’s assertions in a voluntary interview with the committee. He testified that he had never been told by any White House official to reverse a security clearance determination. 

“I have never been approached by anybody at the White House or outside the White House to adjudicate a case, one way or the other, in my tenure at the White House,” Kline declared. 

 

2019-07-18 Minority Memo to COR Members Re WH Security Clearance Investigation by M Mali on Scribd

 

This story was updated at 6:22 p.m.