No area of corruption inside the White House is out of the reach of House Democrats. Newly in the majority, this Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (Md.) unveiled a new investigation into the Trump administration’s security clearance process, which has long attracted controversy. He has requested documents from the White House surrounding the clearances of high profile current and former officials including President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. As he noted, federal law requires the White House to comply with such Congressional requests, although it’s certainly not immediately clear that they actually will.
Both Flynn and Kushner are among those whose status inside the White House has been based on questionable — at best — security clearances. Flynn worked inside the administration while doubling as essentially a secret agent for the Turkish government and maintaining secrets about his communications with Russia, while Kushner’s background check lagged for months despite him maintaining access to top secret information inside the White House anyway.
After White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned and the administration was pressured into taking a cold, hard look at its security clearance process, Kushner’s clearance was temporarily significantly downgraded — but the issues remain. Other officials Cummings named as under scrutiny include Michael Flynn Jr., former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, current national security adviser John Bolton, and former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, among others.
In a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings explained:
‘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 to them, and develop reforms to remedy the flaws in current White House systems and practices.’
To that end, besides examining Trump team documentation on the various clearances in question, Cummings wants “all personnel in the White House security office” to sit for transcribed interviews beginning February 11, although no dates have been set yet. Elsewhere in the House, Democrats have made clear that if Trump team members do not comply with their requests for testimony surrounding issues the previous Republican majority may have been apt to ignore, they’re ready and willing to use subpoenas. House Intelligence Committee member Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has said that a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. is even on the table.
Her committee’s investigation of the Trump team centers around the Russia scandal, highlighting just how many challenges the Trump administration faces going forward. Early next month, as one early highlight of House Democrats’ investigative efforts, they were set to be hosting former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for public testimony until he withdrew thanks to “threats” from the president.
The way out of all of these investigations could reasonably include impeachment, which Democratic leaders have acknowledged as an option while refusing to fully rush to back. The 2020 presidential candidate field also continues to take shape, with numerous Democratic challengers to Trump already preparing for a fight.
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