This is one of those half-day stories that will be handwaved away by the afternoon, after Sarah Huckabee Sanders says something to the effect of, “We do not comment on issues concerning security clearances.” But, in the interests of reminding folks that this is not normal so that we don’t get in the habit of shrugging our shoulders at insane behaviors from the White House, let’s cover it anyway.
Today, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman over at The NYTimes are reporting on a whisteblower — Tricia Newbold, a manager in the White House’s Personnel Security Office — who testified in front of Congress that at least 25 individuals who had their security clearances denied during the routine investigations by career civil servants had their decisions overturned by President Trump.
Among concerns the White House Personnel Security Office had were “foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct,” and I think we all know where this is headed. Some of those concerns, obviously, relate to Jared Kushner — who was initially denied security clearance — and while Newbold did not name names, we can make educated guesses. Elijah Cummings, the Chairman of the Oversight Committee, certainly did so by requesting documents pertaining to nine current and former officials, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and John Bolton, the current National Security Advisor.
Alas, what Trump did is not illegal, only irregular, and so the White House will probably try to ignore this report, or “fake news” it into the ether. The truth of the matter is, there’s nothing much Congress can do. On the other hand, if Cummings subpoenas these documents — which the White House will fight in court — we might find out exactly why Jared and Ivanka, among others, were initially denied security clearances. That would be useful information, particularly where it concerns foreign influence and conflicts of interest, because it could help explain some of the otherwise irrational decisions made by the White House. Do other countries have leverage over Trump and/or his family? That’d be nice to know!
Also, why did the White House stop running basic credit checks on its employees? What is the White House afraid of uncovering? Or making public?
All of this, of course, is particularly galling in light of the concerns Trump had with Hillary Clinton and her emails (though, Jared Kushner apparently uses WhatsApp to talk to foreign officials). The White House is running roughshod over norms, and if we don’t at least call it out, this President and future Presidents will be able to install anyone the hell they feel like without regard to his or her conflicts or past criminal or ethical misdeeds.
Header Image Source: Getty Images