The House Oversight Committee voted on Tuesday to subpoena a Trump Administration official who allegedly retaliated against a whistleblower who raised concerns about the decision to overturn approximately 25 security clearance denials for officials and contractors.
The subpoena — among the first issued under the new Democratic majority in the House — will go to former White House personnel security office director Carl Kline, who left for the Defense Department in January 2019.
Cummings has sought Kline’s testimony since January, when whistleblower Tricia Newbold came forward to the committee with allegations that Kline had subverted standard procedures for issuing security clearances to dozens of officials. Newbold alleged that security clearances had been denied on grounds of foreign influence, financial problems, and behavioral issues, among other things.
Newbold testified on Saturday before the committee in a closed-door, on-record hearing. She alleged that Kline retaliated against her in part through an unpaid two-week suspension and by placing documents out of reach for Newbold, who has dwarfism.
The Tuesday hearing at which the subpoena to Kline was authorized veered toward farce at times.
At one point, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) slammed House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for forcing them to come in on a Saturday and for sending a press release about the security clearance issue based on the testimony of one witness.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jordan said, to peals of laughter from the majority side of the aisle.
“Oh please,” Cummings said, interrupting Jordan. “Yeah, you’ve done it.”
Cummings also said that Newbold, who remains a White House employee, was afraid that Republicans would leak her identity to her bosses before she would be able to testify.
“She’s scared to death,” Cummings said. “And she was afraid, sadly, of our Republican colleagues.”
The subpoena comes after Kline supposedly ignored two letters from the House Oversight Committee requesting his testimony.
Cummings said at the hearing that after he released a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone yesterday outlining Newbold’s testimony and a memorandum to lawmakers, Kline agreed to testify before the committee, but not on specific issues and only on general policy.
“This is not sufficient,” Cummings said.
Presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s receipt of a security clearance has raised questions, particularly since he reportedly received it after Trump overrode the recommendations of career staff.
During the Tuesday committee meeting, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) cited Kushner’s alleged use of encrypted messaging app Whatsapp to communicate with Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin-Salman.
“What’s next? Putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?” she asked rhetorically.
This story has been updated.