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 ThompsonDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response 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 NielsenHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers The 'accidental director' on the front line of the fight for election security MORE's resignation. President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report 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.