The White House has rebuffed House Democrats’ request for documents pertaining to the security clearance process, a move that drastically increases the chances of a subpoena from the House.
In a letter to House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone said the committee request for the information was “without legal support, clearly premature, and suggests a breach of the constitutionally required accommodation process.”
Rather, Cipollone said his staff would brief the panel and allow them to view documents related to their investigation. That offer has not been sufficient for committee Democrats in the past.
“We believe the best course is to move forward with this agreed-upon accommodation and then speak again once your review of the documents and the briefing are complete,” said the letter, which was dated Monday and released Tuesday.
The standoff comes just days after reports that President Trump directed his then-Chief of Staff John Kelly to give his son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance despite concerns from the intelligence community. The New York Times first reported the news, which was later confirmed by The Washington Post.
Cummings, however, has been asking questions about the security clearance process for months, even garnering bipartisan support for his inquiry last Congress.
In a statement, Cummings rejected the White House lawyer’s assertion that Congress does not have jurisdiction over security clearance matters.
“There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people,” Cummings said. “The White House’s argument defies the constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this committee, and just plain common-sense. The White House security clearance system is broken, and it needs both congressional oversight and legislative reform.”
The committee has not detailed its next steps. But its most recent letter to the White House on the matter last Friday warned the correspondence would be the “final” attempt at voluntary compliance.