Oversight Republicans to chairman: Investigate Obama aides

Greg Nash

Two senior Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are pushing back on a Democratic probe into the Trump administration’s security clearance process, saying the panel’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), should look into the previous administration’s practices.

The push comes as the committee gears up to hear the testimony of former White House personnel security director Carl Kline after a whistleblower who worked under Kline told committee staffers that Trump administration officials overruled career officials roughly two dozen times to grant security clearances despite “disqualifying issues.”

{mosads}Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the Oversight panel, and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, wrote to Cummings on Friday to say that he should turn his focus to members of the Obama administration.

The pair, who are both allies of President Trump, noted that Kline’s lawyer Robert Driscoll had “asked that you obtain documents about the security clearance practices from the previous administration to ‘best evaluate’ the current security clearance processes.”

The lawmakers alleged that Democrats’ investigation has been a partisan attack on Trump, adding they believe Cummings should “refocus your investigation” away from the president and shift it toward “responsible, bipartisan oversight.”

Jordan and Meadows said there have been longstanding issues with the way security clearances are granted, arguing there were officials in the Obama administration who were improperly provided with the ability to access classified information.

“Mr. Driscoll’s request to you is an opportunity to prove that you are not using the Committee to target the President or his senior advisors. We understand that senior officials in the previous administration may have had problems with regard to their security clearance applications,” they wrote.

“According to public reports, Ben Rhodes, a former senior national security and foreign policy advisor in the previous administration, obtained a high-level clearance despite a questionable background investigation that may have led the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deny him an interim clearance. Similar troublesome issues also may have plagued the clearance process for former senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, among others,” they wrote.

The GOP congressmen went on to call on Oversight Democrats to review the information on the previous administration’s security clearance processes ahead of Kline’s deposition.

“If you plan to continue to dedicate the Committee’s limited resources to this investigation, the Committee should have all the facts—not just the selective facts that support your preconceived conclusions,” they continued. “We therefore urge that you request from the National Archives and Records Administration all Executive Office of the President records relating to the security clearances of Ben Rhodes, Valerie Jarrett, and other similarly situated senior advisors from the previous administration.”

A senior Democratic committee aide blasted the GOP letter on Friday, saying that “Republicans investigated the Obama Administration for eight years, and they would rather keep doing that than investigate anything involving the Trump Administration.”

“For the past three months, they opposed the Committee’s security clearance investigation, but now they apparently support it — as long as we only dig up dirt on old Obama appointees. Their sudden reversal shows that they are more interested in partisan game-playing than in fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities,” the Democratic aide added.

Cummings launched the investigation in January, having requested documents from the White House related to numerous officials’ clearances — including Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner — in addition to requests for Personnel Security Office employees to be made available for transcribed interviews.

Updated at 8:05 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Jared Kushner Jim Jordan Mark Meadows

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