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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 22, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: White House security clearances raise concern

A White House whistleblower alerted lawmakers that dozens of denials for security clearances have been overturned by President Donald Trump’s administration April 1. Tricia Newbold, a White House security adviser of 18 years, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the Trump administration approved people for security clearances despite her and her colleagues’ concerns about red flags like blackmail and foreign influence.

Two security clearances particularly garnering attention are those of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, respectively, who are both White House advisers. President Trump and his family have been repeatedly criticized in the past due to his relatives’ high-power White House positions, the family being accused of nepotism by many in the past.

Newbold’s whistleblowing sparked outrage from many Democratic politicians. Following the news, the Democratic party urged the House of Representatives to initiate an investigation into Trump’s security clearance policies and the individuals who were given clearance.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the politicians who called for an investigation of Trump’s security clearance policies April 2. She also criticized Kushner’s alleged use of the messaging app WhatsApp for conducting official foreign business.

“Every day that we go on without getting to the bottom of this matter is a day that we are putting hundreds, if not potentially thousands, of Americans at risk,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “What is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs? This is ridiculous.”

In response to Newbold’s statement, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform approved a subpoena April 2 to interview Carl Kline, who served as the personnel security director during Trump’s first two years in office. The panel approved the subpoena 2215, the votes falling along party lines. In addition to the interview with Kline, Democrats will also be fully investigating the security clearance process.

While planning to subpoena the Trump administration, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said April 1 that the allegations of faulty security clearances are a cause for grave concern. He also mentioned former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s scandal over using a private email address while serving as Secretary of State and said the current White House situation is far worse, especially considering Trump’s past criticism of her.

“Because what you have here are people who literally have the top secrets of the world, … and they have not been properly cleared, but even more dangerous than that, … the recommendations have gone out to say they shouldn’t have,” Cummings said. “And, so, that should alarm each and every American.”

Amid accusations of him conducting unofficial business with undeserved clearance, Kushner defended himself April 1. In an interview with Fox News, Kushner maintained that he has always been cooperative with the investigations he has undergone. Prior to achieving full security clearance in May, he had interim clearance.

“Over the last few years that I’ve been here, I’ve been accused of all different types of things and all of those things have turned out to be false,” Kushner said. “We’ve had a lot of crazy accusation, like we’ve colluded with Russia. I complied with all the different investigations, whether it be the Senate, the House, the special counsel. I’ve sat for nearly 20 hours of interviews with them.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, said the Democrats’ investigation of the security clearances is dangerous because of the personal information the subpoena could expose.

“What the Democrats are doing is playing a very dangerous and a very shameful game, frankly,” Sanders said. “They’re putting the 3 million people that do have a security clearance at risk. If you [pull] one individual, you’re putting all 3 million people’s personal information at risk.”

Meredith Burke can be reached at mburke@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meredithsburke