Cummings: Trump White House 'Now Stands in Open Defiance of a Duly Authorized Congressional Subpoena'

By Susan Jones | April 24, 2019 | 7:47am EDT
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

( - House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) says he will consult with lawyers and other committee members about holding Carl Kline, the former White House personnel security director, in contempt of Congress.

Kline, subpoenaed by the committee to appear for a deposition on Tuesday morning, failed to show up.

The White House told the Committee it ordered Kline not to appear, but Cummings said President Trump has not asserted any Constitutional or other privilege that would have relieved Kline of his legal obligation to testify.

“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," Chairman Cummings said in a statement.

"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. It also appears that the White House believes that it may dictate to Congress -- an independent and co-equal branch of government -- the scope of its investigations and even the rules by which it conducts them. To date, the White House has refused to produce a single piece of paper or a single witness in any of the Committee’s investigations this entire year.”

The White House earlier told the committee it would not allow Kline to appear unless the White House counsel accompanied him.

Cummings said the White House's position is "untenable," and he accused the administration of "stonewalling."

Kline is accused of retaliating against a whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, who objected to Kline granting security clearances that were flagged as problematic.

The Oversight Committee is investigating security clearances for 25 administration employees, who were granted security clearances or eligibility to access national security information despite recommendations to deny their applications.

In addition to subpoenaing Kline, the committee has demanded “data and adjudication summaries for John Bolton, Michael Flynn, Sebastian Gorka, Jared Kushner, John McEntee, K.T. McFarland, Robert Porter, Robin Townley, and Ivanka Trump”; and documents memorializing the circumstances under which security clearances were granted or denied to, or suspended or revoked from, those same people.

In his April 23 statement, Cummings wrote:

"As the Committee with primary jurisdiction over the Whistleblower Protection Act, we take extremely seriously our responsibility to investigate these allegations and to protect the rights of all whistleblowers who come before Congress. Mr. Kline has a direct and personal legal obligation to comply with this subpoena, and he failed to do so.

“The American people want transparency and accountability from this Administration, but we can’t provide that if we don’t have the information we need.

“I intend to consult with House Counsel and Committee Members about scheduling a vote on contempt. I hope that Mr. Kline, in close consultation with his personal attorney, will carefully review his legal obligations, reconsider his refusal to appear, and begin cooperating with the Committee’s investigation.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight committee, told CNN on Tuesday the only way the committee can force Kline to testify is by going to court.

"I think the only subpoena to carry the clout necessary is through the courts," she said.

Speier said Newbold has accused the Trump administration of ignoring the intelligence community's recommendations on security clearances, and that Newbold, in 17 years on the job, said "she's never seen anything like it."

"So that's the kind of oversight we have to do," Speier said. "We are three equal branches of government. And the president still hasn't read civics 101."

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