Gowdy Criticizes White House Response on Security Clearances

(Bloomberg) -- The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee criticized the Trump administration’s response to questions about its vetting and security clearance process following a series of controversies about staff with access to the country’s most classified information.

Representative Trey Gowdy’s spokeswoman on the committee, Amanda Gonzalez, said Friday that a five-paragraph letter sent to the committee by White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short was “inadequate” and that “we have communicated to the White House that we expect full compliance.”

The letter followed questions that were raised last month about White House security vetting after Staff Secretary Rob Porter was forced to resign amid reports about allegations of domestic violence from two ex-wives. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly then reduced access to top-secret classified information for aides who lacked completed security clearances -- including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and emissary on issues including Israel-Palestinian peace talks.

Gowdy of South Carolina is facing pressure from the top Democrat on the committee, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, to subpoena information about the security clearances the White House has refused to provide instead of “backing down.”

Clearance Protocols

“Unfortunately, the results of your negotiations are now in, and the White House response is completely unacceptable -- under any reasonable standard,” Cummings said in a letter to Gowdy earlier on Friday. “It is now clear that the White House will not respond to this committee unless it is compelled to do so.”

In his letter, Short wrote that “the White House has acted to improve its security clearance protocols, which it inherited from prior administrations,” without providing more details.

Gowdy sent letters Feb. 14 to the White House and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking information about Porter’s security clearance problems and the FBI’s role in adjudicating them.

The next day, Gowdy sent a broader request to the White House seeking information about White House officials who have been working for extended periods with only interim security clearances. Gowdy asked for dates and details of any “negative or derogatory information relevant to adjudication of a security clearance” that have been uncovered in the process.

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