Cummings Asks Gowdy to Subpoena White House for Documents Withheld on Interim Security Clearances
Cummings Asks Gowdy to Subpoena
White House for Documents Withheld on
Interim Security Clearances
New Pentagon Data Highlights
“Critical Failings” in Interim Clearance Process;
Questions About Kushner’s Clearance Multiply
Washington, D.C. (Jan. 24, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to issue a subpoena to compel the White House to produce documents it is withholding relating to interim security clearances for the President’s top aides, particularly in light of troubling new data from the Department of Defense.
“Over the past year, I have asked you repeatedly to join me in investigating critical failings in our nation’s security clearance processes and troubling irregularities with the security clearances of senior aides to President Donald Trump,” Cummings wrote. “You have consistently refused to join any of these oversight requests.”
“I believe that serious deficiencies in our nation’s security clearance processes represent an urgent and grave risk to our national security,” Cummings added. “This assessment is based not only on my own investigative work over the past several years, but also on the work of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.”
One of the requests Gowdy declined to join was a letter Cummings sent to the White House and the Department of Defense on October 5, 2017, seeking information on individuals who were granted “interim” security clearances while background investigations are underway that were later revoked or suspended based on undisclosed criminal acts or national security risks.
The White House refused to respond to Cummings’ request. The White House has also refused to respond to separate requests for information about the security clearances of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, his son Michael Flynn, Jr., Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and other officials. Gowdy declined to join any of these requests.
In response to Cummings’ letter, the Director of the Defense Security Service (DSS) provided troubling new information about the process currently being used to grant interim clearances and individuals who obtained final clearances that were later suspended:
- DSS identified 165 cases over a three-year period in which Secret or Top Secret interim security clearances were granted to individuals who were denied final security clearances in 2017.
- Of those, 151 people had pre-existing issues that they did not disclose and were not discovered during initial checks, and the issues were not identified until the investigation was completed.
- One individual who received an interim Secret clearance did not disclose that he had been charged with felony rape of a child, which was later reduced to a misdemeanor, of which he was found guilty.
- In fiscal year 2017, DSS temporarily suspended the clearances of 114 clearances people who had already received their final clearances, for reasons including criminal conduct including pedophilia, drug use, psychological conditions, and foreign influence.
“The Oversight Committee has direct jurisdiction over security clearances, as well as the processes through which they are granted, suspended, and revoked,” Cummings wrote. “Our Committee has investigated security clearances under both Republican and Democratic chairmen.”
“When you assumed the chairmanship of the Oversight Committee last year, you held a meeting with reporters during which you explained that you were walling off numerous topics from our Committee’s oversight,” Cummings wrote. “However, as the Washington Post reported after the meeting, ‘Gowdy said there were Trump-related matters that he did see falling within the Oversight panel’s purview,’ including ‘procedures for issuance of security clearances’.”
“Yet, to date you have refused to join even one of my requests for documents relating to security clearances,” Cummings wrote. “You have also blocked all efforts to allow Committee Members to vote for themselves on motions to issue subpoenas to obtain any information whatsoever relating to White House officials—relating not only to security clearances, but also to their use of private email and nongovernmental servers, their potential conflicts of interest, and even their response to last year’s hurricanes.”
This week, the New Yorker reported that President Trump granted Kushner access to the highly-guarded President’s Daily Brief (PDB) despite the fact that Kushner has not been able to obtain a final security clearance for the past year. The report stated:
David Priess, a former C.I.A. officer who delivered the P.D.B. during the George W. Bush Administration and is the author of “The President’s Book of Secrets,” said that Kushner’s situation was unprecedented: “Having studied the President’s Daily Brief’s six-decade history, I have not come across another case of a White House official being a designated recipient of the P.D.B., for that length of time, without having a full security clearance.”
The report added: “The Trump Administration expanded the number to as many as fourteen people, including Kushner. A former senior official said, of the growing P.D.B. distribution list, ‘It got out of control. Everybody thought it was cool. They wanted to be cool’.”
Click here to read today’s letter.