The White House is ignoring a bipartisan congressional inquiry regarding documents about the Rob Porter scandal, prompting the House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat to request that the White House be subpoenaed over the matter.
The committee’s investigation into White House security clearances began after Porter, a former staff secretary, resigned amid domestic abuse allegations, which he denies. The allegations prevented Porter from obtaining a full security clearance and have since raised questions about other White House officials operating without one.
House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, sent a letter to the White House last month asking for a wide range of details over the Porter matter, demanding they comply by February 28. They wanted a detailed timeline of the Porter background check by the FBI, when White House officials became aware of his problems and what they did about it.
“Last night, we received a completely inadequate response from the White House regarding our Committee’s request for information about security clearances,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, wrote in a letter Friday to Gowdy.
The committee received a brief letter Thursday night from White House legislative director Marc Short, pointing to the changes that chief of staff John Kelly made to the security clearance process – and ignoring the questions about Porter. Instead, Short touted a working group aimed at improving the clearance process and vowed to keep them apprised of the matter “at the appropriate time.”
In his letter Friday, Cummings slammed Short’s response as “unacceptable – under any reasonable standard.”
“It is now clear that the White House will not respond to this committee unless it is compelled to do so,” Cummings wrote.
He added, “If you decline to issue this subpoena yourself, then I ask that you step aside and allow members of the committee to debate and vote on a motion to issue this subpoena” at the committee’s meeting next Thursday.
Gowdy’s office declined to comment Friday on whether it would issue a subpoena. The South Carolina Republican told CNN Wednesday that the White House had been making a “good faith” effort to respond to his request.
They also requested more details of individuals with interim clearances, and how that process was governed.
The South Carolina Republican had announced on CNN last month that the committee would be looking into the White House’s handling of Porter’s employment.
“I would want to know from (White House counsel) Don McGahn and (chief of staff John Kelly) and anyone else: What did you know, from whom did you hear it, to what extent did you hear it and then what actions, if any, did you take? The chronology is not favorable from the White House,” Gowdy told CNN.
Cummings, however, wrote Friday that the committee has not scheduled any interviews with the White house.
Senior White House aides did not immediately fire Porter and claimed that few knew about the abuse allegations against Porter before the details were published in the media. However, those claims were later debunked by FBI director Christopher Wray, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had made the White House aware of the allegations against Porter throughout 2017 and that their investigation into Porter had been closed in January 2018.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that it was only Gowdy who sent the letter to the White House last month.