The House Oversight Committee Is Setting Its Sights On White House Security Clearance Processes
A Democratic majority in the House already seems to be shaking things up. In a Wednesday letter addressed to White House counsel Pat Cipollone Rep. Elijah Cummings announced that the House Oversight Committee is investigating White House clearance procedures, and that they'll be paying special attention to Jared Kushner, among other current and former White House officials, NBC News reported.
"The goals of this investigation are to determine why the White House and Transition Team appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information, evaluate the extent to which the nation’s most highly guarded secrets were provided to officials who should not have had access them, and develop reforms to remedy the flaws in current White house systems and practices," Cummings, the committee chairman, wrote in the letter. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
How Kushner, the president's son-in-law, obtained his clearance level became a point of contention in early 2018, when NBC News reported that Kushner did not have permanent security clearance nearly one year into Trump's presidency. His security clearance was subsequently downgraded in February of last year, according to NBC News, when it came to light that he had reportedly not submitted all of the required information on his financial disclosure paperwork. His clearance status was reportedly restored several months later.
But Kushner is just one of many on the list of people that the House committee is asking for information about. Cummings has requested information about security clearance proceedings for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor John Bolton, former White House Staff Secretary Robert Porter, and President Trump’s former personal assistant, John McEntee, among others, according to a press release.
When asked why now was the right time to launch an investigation into these proceedings, Rep. Cummings' press secretary pointed Bustle to a statement released on Wednesday.
"For the past two years, I have sought information with other Committee Members about a series of extremely troubling incidents regarding the security clearances of some of President Trump’s top aides, but the White House has refused to provide the information we requested, often ignoring our requests completely," Cummings said in the statement.
In his letter to the White House, Cummings also referenced an internal investigation conducted by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly. “The American people deserve a White House staff that meets the highest standards and that has been carefully vetted — especially those who work closely with the President or handle sensitive national security information," Kelly wrote in a memo to staff in February of 2018. "We should — and in the future, must — do better.”
Notably, a number of freshman Democrats — many of whom are openly critical of the Trump administration — are slated to join the Oversight Committee. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ro Khanna are on deck to join the committee's ranks, according to Politico. Cummings did not appear concerned about the new members' vocal opinions.
“If I based the choices going on the committee based on what people said or their reputations or whatever," he told the political news outlet, "I probably wouldn’t have a committee."