Dems ramp up scrutiny of Kushner's security clearance

Dems ramp up scrutiny of Kushner's security clearance
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House Democrats are ramping up their investigation of White House security clearances following reports that President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE ordered a top-secret clearance for his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBlack community group loses bid to acquire downtown LA Mall despite highest offer Kushner launching investment firm in move away from politics: report Washington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 MORE despite concerns from intelligence officials.
 
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee Five big questions about the Jan. 6 select committee MORE (D-Md.) upped the ante Friday when he threatened to subpoena the White House for documents and witness interviews regarding security clearances that the committee has already demanded.
 
Democrats are also taking an interest in the roles ex-White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and former White House counsel Donald McGahnDonald (Don) F. McGahnCongress hits rock bottom in losing to the president in subpoena ruling Rudy Giuliani's reputation will never recover from the impeachment hearings In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book MORE played in the process for Kushner's security clearance. Both former aides were reportedly closely involved in the process but have since left the Trump administration.
 
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The House Oversight and Reform Committee under new Democratic control first opened an investigation in January into the security clearance issues involving multiple current and former Trump administration officials, one of the sprawling probes surrounding the Trump White House.
 
The investigation immediately focused on Kushner, Trump's first national security adviser Michael Flynn and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Cummings wrote to current White House counsel Pat Cipollone at the time asking for documents and transcribed interviews with all staff in the White House personnel security office.
 
But Cummings accused the White House on Friday of stonewalling the investigation and gave an ultimatum: start complying by Monday or face subpoenas.
 
"I am now writing a final time to request your voluntary cooperation with this investigation. I ask that you begin producing all responsive documents immediately, and I request that you begin scheduling transcribed interviews with each witness identified by the Committee," Cummings wrote in a letter to Cipollone.
 
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest letter from Cummings.
 
The New York Times first reported Thursday night that the president overruled concerns raised by intelligence officials to grant his son-in-law and top adviser in the White House a top-secret security clearance. Trump reportedly pushed for Kushner to receive the clearance in May.
 
The move alarmed officials enough that Kelly wrote an internal memo documenting how had been "ordered" to give Kushner the clearance, according to the Times. McGahn also wrote a memo detailing how he had recommended Kushner not receive a top-secret clearance.  
 
Trump previously told The New York Times in a January interview that he was "never involved" in Kushner's clearance.
 
"I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people, actually. But I don’t want to get involved in that stuff," Trump said at the time.
 
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Officials had raised concerns about Kushner's contacts with foreign governments and investors, as well as initially unreported contacts he had with foreigners. Kushner did not, for instance, report on his security clearance application a meeting during the 2016 campaign with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower claiming to have "dirt" on former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries Clintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE or a meeting with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.
 
Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayAides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book 7 conservative women who could replace Meghan McCain on 'The View' Karen Pence confirms move back to Indiana: 'No place like home' MORE, counselor to the president, said Friday that Trump has the “absolute right” to involve himself in the security clearance process. She did not confirm or deny the reports that Trump ordered Kelly to approve Kushner's clearance.
 
“We don’t discuss security clearances. I am not even going to discuss my own. But I will tell you that the president has the absolute right to do what was described,” Conway said in a Fox News interview.
 
Cummings also on Friday publicly released what had previously been private correspondence with Cipollone since January.
 
"I have been negotiating in good faith — and in private — to try to obtain the information the Committee needs to conduct its investigation. However, over the past five weeks, the White House has stalled, equivocated, and failed to produce a single document or witness to the Committee," Cummings wrote.
 
In the most recent response from the White House, Cipollone questioned the committee's authority to demand documents regarding security clearances. 
 
"We must keep in mind the scope of Congress's legitimate authority in this area, and in particular, the limits on Congress's ability to conduct oversight into particular decisions concerning whether or not to grant security clearances to employees within the Executive Office of the President (EOP)," Cipollone wrote in a Feb. 25 letter to Cummings. 
 
Some Democrats on the Oversight panel are raising the possibility of calling Kelly and McGahn to speak before the committee and provide the memos they reportedly wrote about the problems with Kushner obtaining a security clearance.
 
Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse bill targets US passport backlog Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Tlaib, Democrats slam GOP calls for border oversight to fight opioid crisis MORE (D-Va.), a senior member on the Oversight panel, said he hopes the committee will seek testimony and memos from Kelly and McGahn.
 
"I think we should look at, what troubled you about this? If it was just there was some technical glitches, why would Gen. Kelly be bothered by a presidential order overruling the objections of granting Mr. Kushner a security clearance? One has to assume, based on what we already know, that there were serious reasons not to grant the security clearance, not trivial or technical," Connolly told The Hill. 
 
 
"If [the White House] continue their noncompliance, I expect Chairman Cummings to use his subpoena power, and I would not be surprised if Mr. Kelly and Mr. McGahn thereafter become quickly acquainted with that subpoena power," Krishnamoorthi told The Hill on Friday.
 
A spokeswoman for Cummings said the committee will wait to see how the White House responds by the Monday deadline before making a decision on calling Kelly or McGahn. 
 
Democrats outside of the Oversight committee are also pushing other legislative action beyond the panel's investigation. 
 
Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Ted LieuTed W. LieuMcCarthy jokes it'll be hard not to 'hit' Pelosi with gavel if he is Speaker Court finds Democratic donor Ed Buck guilty of all charges in connection to two men's deaths Press: Give those unemployed writers a job! MORE (D-Calif.) have repeatedly called for Kushner's security clearance to be revoked. They most recently did so in January following a report from NBC News that two career White House security specialists rejected Kushner's application for a clearance after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence, but a supervisor overruled them.
 
Beyer said he plans to introduce legislation soon to reform security clearance processes.
 
"This White House - and Jared Kushner - have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot be trusted on these issues," Beyer said in a series of tweets. "I will step up my work on forthcoming legislation to help fix what went wrong here."
 
Meanwhile, Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHouse at war over Jan. 6 inquiry, mask mandate NYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency The Memo: Harris, Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic divide on immigration MORE (D-N.Y.) unveiled a bill Friday titled the JARED (Judgment And Responsibility in Executing Determinations) Security Clearance Act, which would require notification to Congress if relatives or financial associates of the president receive security clearances against the recommendation of intelligence officials. It would also revoke Kushner's clearance and that of anyone else in a similar situation. 
 
"Mr. Kushner’s security clearance has rightfully been a point of contention," Espaillat said in a statement.
 
Scott Wong contributed.