White House Overturned Denials To Grant 25 Security Clearances – NPR

White House adviser Jared Kushner, left, is among those whose security clearance is being questioned by Democrats.

Susan Walsh/AP


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Susan Walsh/AP

White House adviser Jared Kushner, left, is among those whose security clearance is being questioned by Democrats.

Susan Walsh/AP

An 18-year White House employee told congressional investigators that she and other career staffers denied security clearances for 25 Trump administration officials, including three “very senior” officials, only to see most of those recommendations overturned.

The employee, Tricia Newbold, was interviewed by staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Democrats on the panel released a summary of her interview, conducted over the weekend, raising new questions about how and why the White House issued security clearances to, among others, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

Newbold said security clearance applications “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security,” and staff denials were frequently overturned by senior officials in order to grant the employees access to classified information.

Newbold said in the case of one official, named only as Senior White House Official 1, staff denied the security clearance request after a background investigation revealed “significant disqualifying factors, including foreign influence, outside activities and personal conduct.”

But Newbold said the denial was overturned by the director of the White House Personnel Security Office, Carl Kline. Staff also recommended denying a clearance to a second “very senior official” based on “foreign influence and outside activities,” but Newbold said Kline told her “do not touch” the case. That clearance was also granted.

Newbold also said Kline told her to change the recommendation against a third senior official, but she refused. That denial was ultimately upheld, the committee says, and the individual is no longer at the White House.

Newbold said in addition to the two current senior officials, security clearances were also granted to contractors and other individuals in the executive office of the president, despite having “a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”

She said when she raised concerns to her superiors, they ignored them. She said she was coming forward because she believes “that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.”

Newbold also told the oversight committee staff that the White House Security Office stopped conducting credit checks on applicants to work in the White House during their initial suitability review. This, she said, prevents the White House from being able to assess whether applicants “could be susceptible to blackmail, depending on their debts.”

The chairman of the oversight panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., plans to subpoena Kline to force him to testify before the committee. In a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings said the subpoena is necessary because “The Committee has given the White House every possible opportunity to cooperate with this investigation, but you have declined. Your actions are now preventing the Committee from obtaining the information it needs to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities.”

The White House has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

The ranking Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in a statement that “Cummings’ investigation is not about restoring integrity to the security clearance process, it is an excuse to go fishing through the personal files of dedicated public servants.” Jordan said one of the 25 people who received a security clearance despite being initially denied one was a General Services Administration custodian.

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