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Cummings Requests Information From White House Counsel and National Security Advisor on Their Staff Coordination with Nunes

Mar 31, 2017
Press Release

Cummings Requests Information From White House Counsel and National Security Advisor  on Their Staff Coordination with Nunes

 

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 31, 2017)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster asking when they became aware that their own staff members reportedly contacted  House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, facilitated his entry into the White House complex, and provided him with access to review classified information.

 

Click here and see below to read today’s letter.

 

March 31, 2017

 

Donald F. McGahn II

White House Counsel

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.  20500

 

Lt. General H.R. McMaster

National Security Advisor

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.  20500

 

Dear. Mr. McGahn and Lt. General McMaster:

 

            Over the past two days, press accounts have reported that staff who work directly for you contacted Rep. Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, secured his entry into the White House complex on March 21, 2017, and provided him with access to classified information, which he then conveyed to the President the following day.  I am writing to request information about whether you both were aware of these actions.

 

On March 23, 2017, White House spokesman Sean Spicer was asked whether any White House staff or Trump Administration officials were involved in providing this information to Chairman Nunes.  In response, he stated:  “I don’t know why he would come up to brief the President on something that we gave him. … It doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense.  So, I’m not aware of it, but it doesn’t really pass the smell test.”   Since that time, Mr. Spicer has declined to answer questions about the involvement of specific White House staff in this matter.

 

            In contrast, several press accounts have now reported that at least three White House officials were involved in orchestrating Chairman Nunes’ entry into the White House complex and providing him with access to classified information:

•           The first White House official reportedly is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who served on the Trump transition team with Chairman Nunes and previously served at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  According to a report yesterday by the New York Times, Mr. Cohen-Watnick currently serves as Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council.  The Times also reported that Mr. Cohen-Watnick was brought to the White House by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and was “nearly pushed out of his job this month” by National Security Advisor McMaster, but “survived after the intervention of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.”

 

•           The second White House official reportedly is Michael Ellis, who previously worked for Chairman Nunes as General Counsel on the Intelligence Committee.  According to the White House website, Mr. Ellis serves in a dual capacity for both of you, carrying the titles of Senior Associate Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office and Deputy Legal Advisor to the National Security Council, as well as Special Assistant to the President.

 

•           The third White House official reportedly is John Eisenberg, according to a subsequent report by the Washington Post.   According to the White House webpage, Mr. Eisenberg also serves in a dual capacity for both of you, carrying the titles of Deputy Assistant to the President, National Security Council Legal Advisor, and Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs.

 

I am sure you agree that statements issued by the White House should be accurate and that any statements issued in error must be corrected as soon as possible.  I do not know if these press accounts are accurate, but if they are, they raise serious questions in light of previous denials by the White House and the fact that these White House officials report to you.

 

In order to help clarify the public record, I request that each of you respond to the following questions by April 7, 2017:

 

(1)        Were either of you personally aware of the activities of your own staff in contacting Chairman Nunes, facilitating his entry onto the White House grounds, or providing him with access to classified information?

 

(2)        If so, when did you become aware?  Did you inform Mr. Spicer of their activities, and if so, when did you do so?

 

(3)        If you were not aware, then how did this breach of the chain of command occur? 

 

(4)        If these activities occurred without your knowledge, will any disciplinary measures be taken against these staff for this apparent breach?

 

(5)        Was anyone else at the White House involved in these activities, and if so, who?

 

            Thank you for your consideration in responding to this inquiry.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

                                                                        Elijah E. Cummings

                                                                        Ranking Member

 

cc:        The Honorable Jason Chaffetz, Chairman

115th Congress