By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic-led congressional committee voted on Tuesday to subpoena a former White House security clearance chief over whistleblower allegations that the Trump administration inappropriately reversed career officials’ decisions to deny security clearances to some of the president’s advisers.
Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, led the push to subpoena Carl Kline, who was White House personnel security chief for the first two years of Trump’s presidency and now works for the Department of Defense.
The committee voted to approve the subpoena for Kline, with 22 Democrats voting in favour and 15 Republicans against.
In a letter sent to White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Monday, Cummings said Kline had not responded to the committee’s requests that he testify voluntarily.
Cummings said the White House and Kline’s lawyer on Monday responded he would voluntarily testify but would not answer questions about specific security clearance cases or violations.
Cummings said on Tuesday these conditions were unacceptable.
Tricia Newbold, a career security official at the White House for 18 years, has said the Trump administration overruled security experts to give questionable security clearances to more than two dozen people, who congressional sources said included Republican President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
In a letter to the White House on Monday, Cummings said Newbold detailed the cases of three anonymous “senior White House officials” whose clearances career officials recommended should be denied, though the White House went ahead and granted clearances to two of the three unnamed individuals.
Two sources familiar with the congressional investigation said that two of the senior officials whose clearances Newbold said were initially denied were Ivanka Trump and Kushner.
The White House on Tuesday shot back at Democratic moves to issue a subpoena for Kline.
“These requests are absolutely ridiculous,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in an interview on MSNBC, adding that the White House would not cooperate with Cummings’ demands on security clearances.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Jonathan Oatis)