Cummings: White House blocked ex-official from talking about Kushner, Ivanka clearances

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) says the White House prevented a former official from answering questions about the security clearances of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump during a closed-door interview this week.

“They wouldn’t touch it,” Cummings told reporters on Thursday. “And that’s one of the reasons we were so concerned about having the White House counsel there. Whenever there was any mention of Ivanka or any mention of Mr. Kushner, he shut him down.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee interviewed former White House personnel security director Carl Kline behind closed doors on Wednesday as part of the panel’s sweeping investigation into the Trump administration’s security clearance process.{mosads}

Cummings’s panel subpoenaed Kline to testify after a whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, claimed Kline overruled her to issue clearances to White House officials despite career officials flagging disqualifying issues in the applicants’ backgrounds.

In total, Newbold told the committee that the Trump administration overruled career officials to issue clearances to 25 officials, including Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Trump, the president’s eldest daughter.

Newbold also said Kline retaliated against her for raising national security concerns about the clearance process, which Cummings said Kline refuted during his closed-door testimony.

Reuters reported that Kline told the committee during his interview that he was never instructed to alter a security clearance determination by officials at the White House.

Cummings did not address that report Thursday but said Kline limited his testimony based on the advice of the White House, which demanded that it send a representative to the interview.

“He was very reluctant to go into two subjects that we were most concerned about. One of them was the retaliation against Ms. Newbold. He claims he didn’t do anything. We have evidence to the contrary,” Cummings said.

“The other thing, of course, that we wanted to know was about Kushner and Ivanka Trump and we wanted to know how these 25 people who were presented security clearances after Ms. Newbold said that they shouldn’t have,” Cummings continued. “The White House basically when it came to any kind of information about specific people, the White House counsel shut him down, said, you can’t answer that.”

Kline was scheduled to appear before the committee on April 23 but didn’t show up after the White House directed him to not appear because Cummings wouldn’t permit a White House lawyer to attend.

Cummings initially signaled he wanted to hold Kline in contempt for evading the interview but backed off over the weekend, scheduling Kline for the interview on Wednesday but insisting that the interview would not be limited in scope.

The Democratic chairman said Thursday that his next step will be to review “what he said and what he didn’t say.”

“We’re going to go back to the drawing board, because we can’t give up,” Cummings said.

He also signaled displeasure with the White House for refusing a request for a tranche of documents as part of the security clearance investigation.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Cummings Wednesday that the committee’s request falls outside the realm of “legitimate Congressional requests.”

“Its self-described effort to ‘investigat[e]’ the background files of ‘specific individuals’ is improper, has no valid legislative purpose, and clearly is a mere pretext to harass and intimidate dedicated public servants,” Cipollone wrote.

Kline’s attorney Robert Driscoll declined to comment. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Tags Elijah Cummings Ivanka Trump Jared Kushner

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