White House tells former official to ignore Democratic subpoena — Things go south from there

Rep. Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee. Screen capture by Roll Call via YouTube video

The House Oversight Committee plans to schedule a vote to hold a former White House personnel security director in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena and appear at a hearing looking into alleged lapses in security clearance procedures at the White House.

Committee chair Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said he plans to discuss the matter with the House Counsel and members of the committee about scheduling the vote for former White House personnel security director Carl Kline, The Washington Post reports.

The White House has instructed Kline to decline answering questions as part of an ongoing investigation into the White House’s security clearance process, Politico reports:

“It appears that the president believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight,” Cummings said in a statement.

Indeed, the Trump White House continues to respond aggressively as House Democrats continue along in a number of additional investigative threads. That includes the lawsuit the president filed Wednesday against Cummings to protect Trump’s financial records.

So the situation continues to escalate.

“It also appears that the White House believes it may dictate to Congress — an independent and co-equal branch of government — the scope of its investigations and even the rules by which it conducts them,” Cummings said. “To date, the White House has refused to produce a single piece of paper or a single witness in any of the committee’s investigations this entire year.”

Kline faces allegations that he overrode senior national security officials to greenlight security clearances for officials whose applications were declined originally, Politico’s Anita Kumar and Andrew Desiderio report. The allegations against Kline were made clear to the committee when whistleblower Tricia Newbold came forward and told the Oversight Committee that Kline, among others, endangered national security by granting security clearances to more than two dozen officials. One of those “officials” was Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

During her testimony, Newbold told Congress it was her “last hope” for addressing what she believes is improper conduct that exposed the nation’s secrets.

Newbold, who has served under Republican and Democratic presidents, said she alerted her superiors that clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security” and faced retaliation for coming forward.

If the House moves forward with the contempt vote against Kline, it will be the first time since Trump took office. And this just shows how frustrated Democrats are with an administration that continually ignores requests for documents and witness testimony. And obviously, an administration that files lawsuits to fight congressional subpoenas.

“It’s true, with all the committees — the White House is fighting each and every one,” said Ed Passman, Newbold’s attorney. “This is just another example. It’s really disappointing because my client has come forward at great risk.”

Trump sued Cummings Monday, in an attempt to block the Oversight Committee’s subpoena targeting account firm Mazars USA. The committee hopes to obtain eight years of Trump’s financial records from the company.

And of course, Trump & Co. aren’t happy.

“The Democrat party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump,” his lawyers declared in a court document. “Subpoenas are their weapon of choice.”

Michael Purpura, White House Deputy Counsel sent a letter Monday requesting that Kline not answer questions because it “unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests.” This, note Kumar and Desiderio, isn’t an unusual refrain from the White House. Officials here have argued House Democrats’ burgeoning investigations have little legislative purpose other than to hobble Trump, politically.

This was followed up by a letter from Kline’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, who informed the committee that Kline wouldn’t answer questions.

“With two masters of two equal branches of government, we will follow the instructions of the one that employs him,” Driscoll wrote in the letter.

So stay tuned. More slap fighting between the Oversight Committee and the Trump administration will undoubtedly follow.

Featured image by Roll Call via YouTube video