DemDaily: The White House Whistleblower

April 1, 2019

Behind closed doors, on Saturday, March 23rd, Republican and Democratic members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee met with Tricia Newbold, a White House Personnel Security specialist.

Newbold, an 18-year non-partisan career federal employee, who detailed a series of explosive allegations against senior Trump administration officials, is the latest figure to come forward to blow the whistle off the actions of history's most embattled White House.

In the nine-hour interview, Newbold claimed that the Trump administration overturned 25 security clearance denials, saying the decisions "were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security."

In what she called a "troubling" pattern of conduct, Newbold, the highest-ranking White House official to come forward on the issue, described senior officials' repeated rebuff of her concerns over the grant of high-level security clearances to individuals who were initially denied access to top-secret information.

"I raised my concerns initially with [Director of Personnel Security] Carl Kline directly. There was no resolution. I raised it with his immediate supervisor, [Chief Operations Officer] Samuel Price. I raised my concerns to White House Counsel on numerous occasions. I raised my concerns to Marcia Kelly, who was the Assistant to the President at the time. I raised my time-or concerns to individuals within Employee Relations, and I raised my concerns to people within the EEO office. I have recently raised my concerns within the last 6 months to [Chief Security Officer] Mr. Crede Bailey directly. And I feel that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office." --Tricia Newbold

Newbold, who is currently the Adjudications Manager in the Personnel Security Office and has worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations, said she was targeted for retaliation for decisions she made on the job.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were originally denied a security clearance

In January she was suspended without pay for 14 days for refusing to "support new procedures your supervisor implemented." She has also filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint that Kline discriminated against her by often putting workplace materials out of her reach, making her unable to do her job.  Newbold suffers from a rare form of dwarfism.

In a ten-page memo compiled by both minority and majority committee staff members, "According to Ms. Newbold, these individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct."

One of those came under public scrutiny last May when it was reported that President Trump had personally overruled objections to a security clearance for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The then-Republican held House rejected Democrats calls for an investigation.

It is unprecedented for an administration to overturn a security clearance denial, let alone dozens. Security clearances are critical to protecting America's intelligence information and the lives of the thousands of agents who collect it. There are 17 agencies who guard our nation's security.

House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (pic: AP)

Newbold noted that of the 25 individuals who received clearances, some had daily access to the president. In addition to Kushner, those reportedly include the president's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.

Newbold also registered concern around the "unusually high" number of interim security clearances Trump administration officials who handled classified information were working with.

The Fallout
In January, the new Democratic-controlled house launched an investigation into the issue of security clearances, but the White House has since rejected repeated efforts to voluntarily provide witnesses and documents.

In the wake of Newbold's Whistleblower allegations, however, House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has informed White House counsel Pat Cipollone that his committee will start authorizing subpoenas on Tuesday.

"The Committee respects the President's authority to grant security clearances ... However, the White House must respect Congress' co-equal and independent authority to investigate who has been given access to our nation's secrets, how they obtained that access, the extent to which national security has been compromised, and whether Congress should amend current laws to improve national security and enhance transparency over these decisions."  -- House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings

The first to be subpoened will be Carl Kline.

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Sources: Politico, MSNBC, NBCNews, Vox

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