Dem pushes for subpoena of White House cyber official

Dem pushes for subpoena of White House cyber official
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A Senate Democrat is pushing for leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee to subpoena a White House national security official to testify on efforts to protect the United States from cyberattacks.

The effort comes after the White House blocked cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce from testifying before the committee at a hearing on Thursday, rankling both Republicans and Democrats on the committee. 

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups MORE (D-Fla.) wrote a formal letter to Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill What the gun safety debate says about Washington Senators ask for committee vote on 'red flag' bills after shootings MORE (D-R.I.) on Thursday, urging them to “subpoena the appropriate White House official to appear before the Armed Services Committee to discuss efforts to defend the Nation from cyberattack.”

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“I request that you subpoena the appropriate White House official to appear before the Armed Services Committee to discuss efforts to defend the Nation from cyberattack,” Nelson wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill. “It is troubling that the White House prevented the Cybersecurity Coordinator—the Administration’s top cybersecurity official—from testifying at [Thursday’s] hearing. This is unacceptable.” 

McCain revealed at the start of Thursday’s hearing that the White House had declined to allow Joyce to testify, citing executive privilege and the precedent of nonconfirmed National Security Council staff not testifying before Congress.

While it was consistent with practices by previous administrations, McCain expressed frustration over the move, saying that the issue of cyber “requires us to completely rethink our old ways of doing business.” 

McCain told reporters at the conclusion of the hearing that the committee would meet to “discuss the issue” of possibly subpoenaing Royce. It was unclear when that meeting would take place.

Throughout the hearing, lawmakers expressed broad frustrations with the lack of a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy for cybersecurity, a void they say existed in the Obama administration and has persisted into the Trump administration. 

“Cyber warfare is one of the greatest threats to our Nation’s security,” Nelson wrote in his letter. “Clearly, much more must be done to adequately defend the Nation, and it will require the leadership of the White House and cooperation with Congress.” 

Nelson serves as the top Democrat on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. He is facing a tough reelection campaign in 2018 in a state that President Trump narrowly won in 2016.

Trump is pushing Florida's term-limited governor, Rick Scott (R), to run for the Senate seat.