Dems launch probe of White House security clearance process

Dems launch probe of White House security clearance process
© Camille Fine

House Democrats are launching an expansive investigation into the White House security clearance process, accusing the Trump administration of disregarding established protocols in a way that has resulted in “grave breaches of national security.”

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question White House to block Conway from testifying over alleged Hatch Act violations MORE (D-Md.) sent a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Wednesday demanding a slew of documents, including those related to background investigations and security clearances of current and former officials like national security adviser John Bolton and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump puts the cart before the horse in Palestine Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline GOP launches 'WinRed' online fundraising site in response to Democrats' small-donor advantage MORE, a senior White House adviser who's also President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE's son-in-law.

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Cummings requested that officials from the White House personnel security office who handle security clearance adjudications make themselves available for sit-down, transcribed interviews with his committee starting Feb. 11.

“The goals of this investigation are to determine why the White House and Transition Team appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information, evaluate the extent to which the nation’s most highly guarded secrets were provided to officials who should not have had access to them, and develop reforms to remedy the flaws in current White House systems and practices,” Cummings wrote in the letter. “The investigation also will seek to determine why the White House is currently defying federal law by failing to provide to Congress information about its security clearance process required by the SECRET Act.”

The move represents a burgeoning effort by House Democrats to use their newfound oversight and subpoena powers to launch wide-ranging investigations into Trump and his administration, after winning a majority in the lower chamber during the November midterm elections.

The White House security clearance process has been a source of controversy at times, amid reports that Kushner lacked a permanent clearance well into Trump's presidency and revelations about former staff secretary Rob Porter.

Cummings requested an expansive trove of documents from the White House and FBI related to security clearance policies, background checks and clearance issuance decisions regarding various current and former White House aides, including Bolton, Kushner and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign early in the Trump administration over revelations about his contacts with a Russian ambassador to the United States.

The Maryland Democrat also asked for White House and FBI documentation regarding the background investigation into Porter, who was forced to resign in February amid abuse allegations from his ex-wives. Porter had held an interim security clearance for more than a year after Trump took office.

Cummings requested all communications between members of the Trump transition team related to background investigations, interim and permanent security clearances and the withdrawal of any applications or reports of derogatory information.

He also asked for documents “related to any assessments done by the White House, FBI, or other agency following the revocation, suspension, or denial of an interim or permanent security clearance to determine the national security risk or potential exposure of national security information.” 

Additionally, the letter requested documents related to any clearances granted to a White House official for whom the White House personnel security office did not recommend a security clearance be given.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.