Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, is poised to schedule a contempt vote for White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline after Kline defied a subpoena calling on him to be deposed before the Committee, Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports.
Kline is entangled in the security clearances scandal, uncovered by whistleblower Tricia Newbold, in which senior White House officials gave security clearances to at least 25 people whose applications were deemed unfit by other employees. When Newbold went to Kline and another supervisor with her concerns about those individuals given clearance, he did not appear inclined to fully address the issue. Thus, she felt compelled to bring this controversy directly to the Committee. Kline is now accused of retaliating against a whistleblower, the rights of whom are safeguarded under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Since January 2019, Kline was asked by the Committee three times to participate in a voluntary interview on the whistleblower and security clearances, but on all occasions he either declined the invitation or ignored the request. When, on April 1, the Committee said they planned to issue a subpoena for Kline to testify, the White House said he’d be available for an interview to “discuss only general policies and procedures,” according to a statement from the Committee. Nothing was mentioned about the whistleblower retaliation allegations or the actions of specific employees. By the way, one of the excuses given by the White House that Kline had only obtained legal counsel over the previous weekend, despite him initially being called in back in January.
On April 18, the White House told the Oversight Committee that they’d order Kline not to appear for the deposition unless it was with the guidance of White House Counsel. That, by the way, is not kosher at all, as explained by the Committee below, and which they also relayed to the White House on April 22:
... Committee Rules have prohibited agency counsel in depositions for many years under multiple Republican and Democratic Committee Chairmen and providing numerous examples of White House officials who have been deposed under these rules.
Does any of this matter to Team Trump? You should know the answer already. On that same day, the White House directed Kline to defy the subpoena, and his legal counsel informed the Committee that he would not testify. Trump has not shown what constitutional or other privilege would keep Kline from being deposed.
And now, here we are, with the White House in a position that Cummings calls “untenable.” He issued a statement on Kline’s noncompliance with the subpoena, which both reiterated ways in which the Trump administration has refused to cooperate with the Committee (previously outlined in a March op-ed) and zeroed in on Kline. Read below, emphasis ours:
The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump. Based on these actions, 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.
Huh, that keyword sounds pretty familiar.
The GOP is claiming that Cummings isn’t cooperating and instead prematurely opting for confrontation. Because Republicans, as we well know, always play fair.