Aug 1, 2019

Senate Democrats' request to probe WH security clearances rejected by watchdog

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration's intelligence watchdog rejected Senate Democrats' request to investigate the White House's handling of security clearances for employees including senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a letter obtained by NBC News Wednesday shows.

Details: In the July 22 letter, Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community, told the Democrats he could only investigate the issue if the president requested it. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and 3 other top Democrats sent President Trump a letter Wednesday, asking him to order a probe.

Why it matters: A White House security adviser told the House Oversight Committee in April that 25 denials for security clearance applications were overridden by the Trump administration.

  • Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, has had his security clearance come into question before as a result of his numerous foreign contacts and reports that he's used WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging app, to communicate with foreign leaders.

What they're saying: Congress would take a more direct role in legislating and overseeing White House security clearances unless such a review was conducted, warned the letter — signed by Warner and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee; Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee; and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member on Armed Services.

"Over the last two years, public reporting has raised serious concerns about irregularities and questionable decisions related to eligibility determinations for [White House] personnel access to classified information."
— Excerpt from the Democrats' letter to Trump

The other side: Kushner told Fox News when asked about the issue in April, "I can’t comment for the White House’s process, but what I can say is that over the last two 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."

Go deeper: Cummings names subpoena targets for security clearance investigation

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House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Rob Porter

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly (L) and former staff secretary Rob Porter. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former Trump administration aide Rob Porter on Monday to testify in its probe regarding possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.

Why it matters: Porter was a key witness for the obstruction portion of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. He resigned from the White House last year after his 2 ex-wives came forward with abuse allegations. Porter may never have to face the committee as the White House has moved to block other former surrogates from testifying before the House Judiciary.

House Judiciary launches bipartisan investigation into Epstein death

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday launched a bipartisan investigation into the death of Jeffrey Epstein by apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail.

The big picture: In a letter to the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) demanded answers to 23 questions — most of which concern the conditions of the facility Epstein was kept in and the circumstances of his death. Attorney General Bill Barr, who earlier announced that the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general will also be investigating Epstein's death, said Monday that he was "appalled" by "serious irregularities" at the facility.

Go deeperArrowAug 12, 2019

House Judiciary subpoenas Corey Lewandowski to testify in obstruction probe

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former White House official Rick Dearborn on Thursday to testify Sept. 17 about potential obstruction of justice by President Trump.

The big picture: The testimonies are part of the ongoing investigation by the committee — recently dubbed "formal impeachment proceedings" by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) — into "obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his associates." Unlike the other witnesses in the Mueller investigation who have been subpoenaed by the Judiciary committee, Lewandowski never worked in the Trump White House — a fact that Democrats hope will prevent the president from blocking his testimony.