The Trump administration has rejected a Democratic-led House committee’s request for information concerning security clearance processes and background documents for White House staff, according to a May 1 letter obtained by The Epoch Times.
The nine-page letter, penned by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, explains to House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, (D-Md.) who is leading the probe, why there is no “legitimate need” for access to such protected documents, arguing it presents a “total disregard for individual privacy.”
“The Committee’s demands fall well outside the realm of legitimate congressional information requests,” Cipollone wrote.
“Respectfully, it is not within the authority of Congress to second guess how the President selects his advisers or who has access to the information necessary to provide the President with fully informed advice,” he said.
The probe comes as more than two dozen White House officials were allegedly denied security clearances by career staff, only to have them approved by staff supervisors. Although career staff can recommend security clearance eligibility for individuals, the president has the final say.
Cipollone, in his letter, noted that the administration respects the authority of Congress to conduct legitimate oversight but said no executive branch employee “has been authorized to disclose to the Committee information about individual security clearance files or background investigation.”
“It is highly improper for the Committee to induce or encourage the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information in order to launch public political attacks on individuals as part of advancing a partisan political agenda,” Cipollone wrote.
Individuals applying for security clearance must undergo a personnel security background investigation, according to the State Department. The clearances are granted after investigators look at sensitive personal information.
Cipollone argued that the committee’s activities may “discourage” individuals from pursuing careers within the government or participating in the security clearance process. He said that the committee is not “legally entitled” to obtain such documents and “respectfully” urged them to cease such improper methods.
He also said that Cummings’s recent position on security clearances “directly contradicts” his previous position that the government should “ensure that FBI records containing sensitive background security information provided to the White House are properly protected for privacy and security.”
Cummings, in response to the White House letter, claimed it was just the “latest example” of the president’s “obstruction.” He said that Congress has a legitimate role “as a check and balance on the Executive Branch.”
“Today’s letter from the White House refusing to produce any security clearance documents requested by the Committee is the latest example of the President’s widespread and growing obstruction of Congress,” Cummings said in a statement to Fox News on May 1.
One of the dozen White House officials whose security clearances were allegedly denied by career staff was senior White House adviser Jared Kushner. Kushner pushed back at the claims in an interview with Fox News where he said that he has complied with all investigations, including the Senate, the House, and the special counsel.
“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 that turned out to be false,” he said on April 1.
“We’ve had a lot of crazy accusations like that we colluded with Russia … I sat for nearly 20 hours of interviews with them.”