House Dems seek answers on Kushner, Flynn security clearances
Posted June 21
Democrats on a key House panel are pressing the White House on why former national security adviser Michael Flynn was allowed to maintain top-level security clearances despite allegations of security concerns while Flynn was at the White House.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, specifically cites Acting Attorney General Sally Yates' explicit warning to White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was likely vulnerable to blackmail by Russians, based on intelligence reports she reviewed. Cummings cites Yates' public comments that, rather than asking about Flynn's possible security breach, McGahn reportedly asked why the White House should be handling it.
Cummings, in his letter released Wednesday, notes that Flynn continued holding his security clearance, despite the warning from Yates.
Cummings cites an executive order requiring employees to have their security clearance preemptively suspended if they are suspected of being a national security risk.
"In general, when there are credible allegations that employees may be unfit to continue accessing classified information, security clearances are supposed to be suspended while the allegations are investigated," Cummings wrote in his letter, sent June 21.
In the letter, Cummings describes "parallel concerns" with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser. The lawmaker notes Kushner's undisclosed phone calls with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, and undisclosed meetings he had with Kislyak and the CEO of Vnesheconombank, a state-run Russian bank under US sanctions.
A spokeswoman for House oversight committee Chairman Trey Gowdy declined comment Wednesday. Gowdy did not sign on to the request from Cummings, but was alerted beforehand that the request was being sent.
A White House spokesman deferred comment on Flynn to the Marc Kasowitz, Trump's outside counsel. A spokesman for Kasowitz declined comment.
Flynn has long been in the crosshairs of congressional and federal investigators and has had previous problems with his national security clearance application. The House panel revealed in April that Flynn failed to reveal payments from RT-TV, a Russian state-run media outlet, in likely violation of federal reporting laws.
Lawyers for Flynn did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday. A senior White House official said Cummings sent his request to the wrong place. If he has any questions about Flynn, they should be sent to the Pentagon, because that's who issued Flynn's clearance, the official said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Flynn's security clearance in April.
"Let's walk through that for a second. General Flynn was a career military officer who maintained a high-level security clearance throughout his career in the military. His clearance was last reissued by the Obama administration in 2016 with full knowledge of his activities that occurred in 2015, as you point out. So the issue is -- he was issued a security clearance under the Obama administration in the spring of 2016," Spicer said.
A spokesperson for Kushner did not respond to a CNN request for comment. Kushner's attorney has previously acknowledged that Kushner did not include the foreign contacts on his security clearance form because it was submitted prematurely. CNN is told that Jared Kushner has since provided the FBI a list of his foreign contacts, as required for his security clearance.
But Kushner has become a new focus for federal and congressional investigators curious about his efforts to establish a backchannel with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- although he is not the target of any probe.
Senate investigators have been negotiating with Kushner to bring him in for an interview, but that is not expected to happen until after July 4.
Other House Democrats, led by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, asked the FBI to revoke Kushner's clearance in an April 13 letter, citing similar concerns that he had not disclosed his meetings with Russian officials.