Congress investigates security clearances: surveillance committee gives White House ultimatum

Elijah Cummings, of the Democratic Republic of Maryland, donated until March 4 to the White House Council Office to respond to this request.

"I am writing one last time to solicit your voluntary cooperation in this investigation," Cummings said. "I ask you to immediately start producing all the relevant documents and I ask you to start scheduling interviews transcribed with each witness identified by the Committee."

Cummings' letter came after the New York Times reported Thursday that the president had personally intervened to get his son-in-law Jared Kushner to get a security clearance, despite the concerns of career leaders. The President had previously denied his personal intervention.

"If true, these new reports raise serious questions about the derogatory information obtained by career managers about Mr. Kushner to urge him to deny him access to the most sensitive secrets of our country. Why did President Trump hide his role McGahn felt compelled to document these actions, and the reason your office continues to retain key documents and witnesses from this committee, "wrote Cummings on Friday.

The White House did not respond to CNN's request on Friday regarding Cummings' request for information.

Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee, told CNN that he wanted the former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, to appear before the panel. clearance.

"I would love to see Mr. Kelly appear before our committee," Connolly said.

But according to letters released by Cummings on Friday, the White House believes it has all the jurisdiction to protect security clearance information about the president's closest confidantes from Congress.

Jared Kushner's security clearance story reveals Donald Trump's two biggest faults

In a letter from White House lawyer Cipollone, the White House claims to want to "make available for review" documents on the White House's security clearance process, but says that the White House believes that Congress does not have the power to control security clearance decisions, given the belief that Article II gives the president broad discretion over people with which he shares information. Cipollone writes: "The president, not the congress, has the power to control information relating to national security." In another letter, he urged Cummings to make requests for information on "narrowly focused" and "limited" security clearances.

In his letter, Cipollone also asks Cummings not to go around the White House council office to try to get information directly from White House staff. He cites in particular the efforts to talk to Kelly.

"We learned that the Committee's senior counsel had repeatedly telephoned the residence of former Chief of Staff John Kelly to ask for information about a decision of the executive branch. once, these actions ignore my previous request to the Committee regarding contacts with current White House officials, it is essential that these contacts go through my office to protect the important interests of the executive in confidentiality, "wrote Cipollone.

On Thursday, after the Times published, Cummings threatened to issue a subpoena for information if the White House failed to comply with the request.

"To date, the White House has produced no documents or scheduled a single interview," Cummings said in a statement. "The committee expects its requests to be fully fulfilled as soon as possible, otherwise it may be necessary to consider other means to compel them to comply."

Connolly also told CNN in an interview Friday that he himself believed Cummings would probably be forced to issue the summons because of the White House's resistance to the issue.

House Oversight Committee Announces White House Security Clearance Investigation

"We can have surveillance," Connolly told CNN. "We control security permissions. For example, we got involved in the outsourcing of security clearances, we got involved in the backlog. This is not exclusively a function of executive power. We are fully entitled to exercise our constitutional role. "

On January 23, Cummings announced that he was investigating the Security Clearance process at the White House and asked for information on background investigations and security clearances from National Security Advisor John Bolton, former Secretary of Staff White House, Rob Porter, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. his son Michael Flynn Jr., former deputy president Sebastian Gorka, Kushner, former deputy national security advisor KT McFarland and former senior director for Africa, Robin Townley.

Cummings also requested information on the official White House security clearance protocol and all documents related to a February 2018 memo, Kelly, then White House Chief of Staff, on how to Improve the process.

Tammy Kupperman and Maegan Vazquez of CNN contributed to this report.

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