The White House is refusing to hand over to Congress documents regarding its process for security clearances, possibly paving the way for a second round of subpoenas to hit the Trump Administration.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released a response from the White House on Tuesday, with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone describing the committee’s request as “unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive.”
Cipollone noted that he had offered to have the White House’s chief security officer brief the committee and have the committee review the processes for clearance approval, but that the committee did not deem this response sufficient.
While Cipollone wrote that the White House would continue negotiations with the committee “in good faith,” he argued that the scope of the requests represented an overstep of Congressional boundaries.
“These actions suggest that the Committee is not interested in proper oversight, but rather seeks information that it knows cannot be provided consistent with applicable law,” Cipollone argued.
Cummings promptly pushed back.
“The White House’s argument defies the Constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this Committee, and just plain common-sense,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
Cummings, whose committee has the broadest oversight jurisdiction in the House of Representatives, had informed Cipollone in January that he was launching an investigation into the White House’s security clearance processes. In his letter explaining the investigation, he cited the ability of both White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to obtain clearances, despite the fact that both men failed to disclose contacts with Russian officials.
Cummings’ requests included documents showing the way the Trump Administration may have altered the process; a comprehensive list of employees who had applied for security clearances and employees who had them revoked; all documents relating to the security clearance for Kushner, Flynn, Flynn’s son Michael Flynn Jr., current National Security adviser John Bolton, former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, former White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, two of Flynn’ deputies, Robin Townley and K.T. McFarland; and documents about the memo former Chief of Staff John Kelly had written on security clearance reform.
The New York Times reported Feb. 28 that Trump had ordered his Kelly to grant Kushner a security clearance, despite concerns voiced by both intelligence officials and the White House’s then most senior attorney, Don McGahn. One day later, Cummings sent what he said was his final request for documents before he would consider “alternative means to compel compliance” — widely interpreted as a subpoena.
The committee voted Feb. 26 to authorize its first round of subpoenas, which were sent to Attorney General William P. Barr, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II requesting documents about the Administration’s family separation policy at the southern border.
Cummings made no mention of a subpoena in Tuesday’s statement, only stating that he would confer with committee members to gauge their thoughts on next steps. But given the warning he provided to the White House, it is likely still on the table.