Former White House official could face contempt vote in Congress

Legal tensions are escalating between the Trump administration and House Democrats after a former White House security official on Tuesday defied a subpoena related to a congressional investigation into how security clearances were issued.

Former White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline had been scheduled to provide a deposition Tuesday before investigators with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The White House told the panel it had directed Kline not to appear before the committee.

“The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the committee, said in a statement.

Cummings said as a result of Kline’s failure to appear, he is looking into scheduling a vote on contempt of Congress. He hopes that Kline will “reconsider his refusal” and “begin cooperating with the committee’s investigation.” 

The oversight panel has been looking into questions raised about how members of the administration were given security clearances, despite recommendations against them. A longtime official in the White House security office has said dozens of people were given security clearances even though they had “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds.

The security clearance given to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is among those that have come under scrutiny. Part of the concern was related to his initial failure to disclose several foreign meetings on security clearance forms.

In a letter sent to the committee earlier this month, the White House said it was cooperating with the panel and offered to make Kline available to discuss general security issues.

Democrats said the White House response was inadequate. House Republicans have said the security concerns were exaggerated and suggested Democrats are pursuing the issue for political gain.

The struggle over the issue of security clearances is just one of several growing legal battles between the White House and House Democrats. House committees controlled by Democrats are now investigating a broad array of issues involving the president, his former campaign and his business interests.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said Democrats will continue to press ahead with investigations, as her party tries to determine how to deal with the issue of possible impeachment proceedings against the president. Pelosi has urged congressional Democrats to tamp down talk about impeachment and focus on where the facts take them.

Pelosi spoke with Democrats during a conference call Monday evening, which followed last week’s release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

WTOP’s Mitchell Miller reported from Capitol Hill. 

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