Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, is seeking to resolve a tense dispute between Democrats and the White House as part of the panel’s review of the Trump administration’s security clearance process.
In a letter obtained by CNN and dated Friday, Jordan is asking White House counsel Pat Cipollone to allow former official Carl Kline to sit down for a voluntary transcribed interview to avoid a growing constitutional clash between the two branches of government. The move comes after the White House instructed Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, to defy a subpoena because Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings would not allow a White House attorney to attend Kline’s deposition, citing committee rules.
Cummings is now threatening to hold Kline in contempt, which Jordan says in his letter could happen as soon as Tuesday.
“To avoid unnecessary conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch and to de-escalate Chairman Cummings’ orchestrated interbranch confrontation, I write to ask whether Mr. Kline would agree to appear for a voluntary transcribed interview with committee staff,” Jordan wrote, offering next Tuesday or Wednesday as options.
In a letter Friday night to Jordan, Cipollone offered to make Kline available for an interview Wednesday to answer questions about the security clearance process.
But Cipollone notes that the interview would be “limited to White House personnel security policy and practices, consistent” with past offers to the panel, which Cummings had previously rejected. Cipollone also notes that the White House counsel would have a representative in the room, something that Cummings had also rejected in past discussions.
The interview would come on the same day that Attorney General William Barr is set to testify about the Mueller report in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The move is an effort to pressure Cummings to agree to an interview on the White House’s terms. A Cummings spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Kline’s testimony has been of high interest for Democrats after a career White House official, Tricia Newbold, told committee investigators that he greenlighted security clearances for White House officials despite red flags raised in the vetting process.
Newbold identified 25 instances where concerns had been raised over White House officials’ clearances, including for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Democrats have been pushing to understand the role of President Trump and top White House officials in the clearance process, but Cipollone has rejected a series of requests, including the subpoena for Kline’s appearance.
Kline had initially offered to testify voluntarily, which Jordan alludes to in his letter, and the GOP has been sharply critical of Cummings for not taking that offer. But the White House had objected to some lines of inquiry, namely over the process taken for individuals’ security clearances, prompting the subpoena from the Democratic-led committee.