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GOP Downplays Whistleblower’s Clearance Concerns: She Said ‘Only 4-5’ People Posed ‘Very Serious’ Problems


Republican members of the House Oversight Committee on Monday afternoon responded to the concerns of a security clearance whistleblower by saying she testified that “only 4-5” of the “at least 25 people” mentioned posed potentially “very serious” problems.

In case you missed it, Tricia Newbold, identified on Monday morning by the New York Times as a “whistleblower” and a manager in the White House’s Personnel Security Office, said that senior Trump Administration officials granted security clearances, although applications had already been denied due to a variety of concerns.

We had already seen outrage over President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner getting a security clearance despite concerns, but Newbold said that there were actually at least 25 people who were similarly granted such clearances despite concerns of “foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Monday that the first target of the Committee would be Newbold’s former supervisor Carl Kline. Kline served as the “Personnel Security Director at the White House during the first two years of the Trump Administration and […] now works at the Department of Defense.”

Republican Committee staff began its response to Newbold’s closed-door testimony on March 23 by saying that Cummings is conducting a “partisan investigation of the White House,” “cherry-picking” testimony and headline-seeking. They also called the move by Cummings “reckless.”

“Earlier today, Chairman Cummings issued a press release and a memorandum using cherry-picked excerpts from Ms. Newbold’s transcribed interview to release highly personal information to continue his partisan investigation of the White House,” they said. “Chairman Cummings released closed-door testimony—without consulting Republicans Members—to build a case for a deposition subpoena to Carl Kline, a former White House employee who formerly supervised Ms. Newbold.”

“Chairman Cummings solicited this material from Ms. Newbold despite Ms. Newbold’s stated reservations about discussing highly personal information about White House officials,” they added. “We did not intend to release any material from the interview; however, Chairman Cummings’s reckless decision to release cherry-picked excerpts forces us to provide this supplemental information.”

They said that Newbold actually has “little direct knowledge” of what happened and why, when it came to the decision to grant “Senior White House Official 1” and “Senior White House Official 2″ clearances. It’s likely that one of these unnamed officials is Jared Kushner, given prior reporting.

“In reality, however, Ms. Newbold provided little direct knowledge about the reasons for why Senior White House Official 1’s and Senior White House Official 2’s security clearances were granted over her recommendations,” the GOP response continued. “Her testimony focused on a series of personnel and workplace complaints that suggest she is unhappy and dissatisfied in her office.”

Next, they rapid-fired eight retorts:

1. Ms. Newbold had limited firsthand knowledge on particular security applicants and, instead, focused her testimony primarily on problems with her supervisor.

2. Ms. Newbold testified that Kline overruled her recommendation with respect to Senior White House Official 1, but she has no direct knowledge as to why.

3. Ms. Newbold said she did not “work” on Senior White House Official 2’s application, but she would recommend against a clearance.

4. Ms. Newbold testified that Kline directed her to change her determination for a third White House Official, but that official never obtained a final security clearance.

5. Ms. Newbold testified that Kline overruled her on 25 applications—from senior White House officials to nonpolitical employees.

6. Ms. Newbold has filed EEOC and OSC complaints about her work environment at the White House, suggesting she is unhappy with her office.

7. Ms. Newbold has registered several complaints about Kline, her office, and other White House officials.

8. Ms. Newbold acknowledged that the President has ultimate control over security clearances, and that the Trump Administration is improving the process.

Under point no. 5, Republicans made sure to mention that Newbold “testified that only 4-5 of her unfavorable 25 adjudications were for ‘very serious reasons.'”

Under no. 8, Republicans said, among other things, that Newbold a) “conceded that the Trump Administration has improved some aspects of the security clearance processes”; b) “spoke favorably of the removal of Kline, and favorably about her current supervisor and chain of command”; and c) said that President Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly was instrumental in reforming the security clearance process.

“I do believe that we were getting out of control with the interim clearances, and Mr. Kelly acted accordingly, and that was an improvement,” Newbold was quoted as saying.

You can read the full GOP memo here.

[Image via Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.