House Homeland Security Committee subpoenas security officials for testimony on terrorism

House Homeland Security Committee subpoenas security officials for testimony on terrorism
© Aaron Schwartz

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Hillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC Cyber officials tout reforms with one year to Election Day MORE (D-Miss.) on Thursday issued subpoenas for the public testimony of two senior Trump administration officials on terror threats facing the country. 

Thompson on Wednesday subpoenaed acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and acting National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Russell Travers, demanding that they testify in a public Oct. 30 hearing. 

A statement from the committee on the subpoenas said that it has been attempting to get McAleenan and Travers to testify since July and that both agencies previously pulled out of a hearing.

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“From the release of ISIS prisoners in Syria to the rising number of domestic terrorism incidents here at home to the continuing effort by Russia to meddle in our elections, there are urgent security threats facing the nation. I am concerned that turmoil within the White House and vacancies at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security are undermining our ability to respond to terrorist threats," Thomson said in a statement.

"It is inexcusable that the people charged with keeping the country safe from terrorism are refusing to show up to testify before Congress and speak to the American people about what they are doing to secure the homeland. It is unfortunate but not surprising the Administration would not keep its word and that subpoenas have become necessary, but the Committee will carry out its oversight responsibilities entrusted to Congress by the Constitution,” he added. 

McAleenan responded in a letter to Thomson on Friday, saying he would not testify despite the subpoena. He said that it would fall during his last week as Homeland Security Secretary and that he needed to devote that time "to ensuring an effective transition in the leadership of the Department."

As an alternative, he offered the testimony of Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis David Glawe or for the department to find "an appropriate time for my successor to testify in the near future."

McAleenan has led Homeland Security on an acting basis since April after then-Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFive things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS MORE's resignation. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTariffs threaten 1.5m jobs: Study Trump says he'll meet with dictators if it helps the US Barr to launch anti-gun violence initiative during public impeachment hearing MORE recently announced that McAleenan will also be stepping down

Travers became the acting NCTC head in August.

Trump's recent decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria and a subsequent Turkish incursion has sparked concern about a possible ISIS resurgence.

Recent hate-motivated attacks have also brought attention to the threat of white supremacy. McAleenan said last month that his department's counterterrorism strategy would include combatting such domestic threats.

—Updated at 6:12 p.m.