Whistle-Blower Tells Congress of Irregularities in White House Security Clearances – New York Times

NBC News reported in January that Mr. Kline had overruled a decision by career security officials concerned about granting Mr. Kushner a clearance.

In the case of the second senior White House official, Ms. Newbold told the committee that a specialist reviewing the clearance application wrote a 14-page memo detailing disqualifying concerns, including possible foreign influence. She said that Mr. Kline instructed her “do not touch” the case, and soon granted the official clearance.

In its January report, NBC News also said that Ms. Newbold had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2018 against Mr. Kline, accusing him of discriminating against her over her short stature, which is caused by a form of dwarfism.

There is nothing barring the president or his designees from overturning the assessments of career officials. But Ms. Newbold sought to portray the decisions as unusual and frequent, and, in any case, irregular compared to the processes usually followed by her office to mitigate security risks.

“Once we adjudicate it, the president absolutely has the right to override and still grant the clearance, but we owe it to the president and the American people to do what is expected of us, and our job is to adjudicate national security adjudications regardless of influence,” she told the committee, according to the staff’s memo.

Mr. Newbold also asserted that Trump administration had made changes to security protocols that made it easier for individuals to get clearances. The changes included stopping credit checks on applicants to work in the White House, which she said helps identify if employees of the president could be susceptible to blackmail. She also said the White House had stopped, for a time, the practice of reinvestigating certain applicants who had received security clearances in the past.

The issue is not a new one for the Trump administration.

In February 2018, questions emerged about the process behind the interim security clearance granted to Rob Porter, then the White House staff secretary. Mr. Kelly announced a series of changes to the process, which resulted in Mr. Kushner’s status — interim top secret at the time — being downgraded.

In the months that followed, some White House officials privately accused Mr. Kelly and other officials of using the security clearances in an arbitrary fashion, to push out aides they either did not favor or who they saw as disruptive to managing Mr. Trump.

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