WASHINGTON – The White House is pushing back against a demand by House Democrats for information on security clearances for top officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in an early sign of how the Trump administration plans to resist a slew of probes.
“The committee has failed to point to any authority establishing a legitimate legislative purpose for the committee’s unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive demands,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. He called for “negotiations in good faith” rather than “legally unsupportable ultimatums.”
The letter was released Tuesday but dated Monday, the same day the House Judiciary Committee demanded documents from 81 individuals, agencies and entities, including the White House, the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr.
While Trump stormed on Twitter on Tuesday that “the Dem heads of the Committees have gone stone cold CRAZY” in their demands on “innocent people,” Cipollone’s response hinted at the legal stance the White House will take as Democrats who now control the House gear up multiple investigations and threaten subpoenas if they don’t get the documents they’re seeking.
Cipollone has been building a team of lawyers in anticipation of the congressional demands.
Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, responded to Cipollone that the security clearance system is broken and that the White House’s challenge to the committee’s authority lacks “just plain common-sense.”
Cummings opened the investigation into White House security clearances shortly after taking over as chairman of the committee.
Kushner and more than 30 other Trump aides lost access to top-secret intelligence in February 2018 because they had been working with “interim” clearances and their background investigations had never been completed. The New York Times reported last week that Trump ordered that Kushner be granted his clearance over the objections of then-White House Counsel Don McGahn.
Cipollone said the committee’s demands included examining “the entire investigative files of numerous individuals whom the president has chosen as his senior advisers.”