House Oversight committee chairman Elijah Cummings accused the White House of an “unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction” in a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday as his committee seeks information related to multiple ongoing investigations into the Trump administration.
Cummings said the administration has not turned over “a single piece of paper to our committee or made a single official available for testimony during the 116th Congress” related to the ongoing committee investigations.
CNN reported Friday that though the White House is publicly maintaining they will cooperate with all requests, officials have internally taken an aggressive approach to the oversight requests as part of their strategy which has included slow-walking responses to demands for hearing dates and delaying efforts to turn over documents or schedule transcribed interviews.
The committee is currently looking into a number of high-profile controversies within the Trump administration and is seeking relevant materials in order to complete their probes. At the top of the list, Cummings wrote, are questions surrounding White House security clearances, particularly whether proper protocols were followed when top-secret clearances were granted to the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Cummings wrote in the Post that while the White House offered to allow the committee to “read – but not keep – a few pages of policy documents,” but he alleges that those materials had “nothing to do” with the investigations.
CNN reported earlier this month that President Donald Trump pressured his then-chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn to grant his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump a security clearance against their recommendations, according to three people familiar with the matter.
While Trump has the legal authority to grant clearances, most instances are left up to the White House personnel security office, which determines whether a staffer should be granted one after the FBI has conducted a background check. But after concerns were raised by the personnel office, Trump pushed Kelly and McGahn to make the decision on his daughter and son-in-law’s clearances so it did not appear as if he was tainting the process to favor his family, sources told CNN. After both refused, Trump granted them their security clearances. Asked for comment, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”
On at least two occasions, the White House has pushed back on efforts by the committee to reach out to former White House officials, arguing that topics pertaining to former officials’ work should be sorted out with the White House first – even if the officials are no longer federal employees.
Cummings and his committee are also looking into the legality of the hush money payments Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen made leading up to the 2016 election to women who have alleged affairs with Trump.
In the op-ed, Cummings contrasted the current administration’s lack of cooperation to what he says used to be “normal” in previous administrations. Cummings said President George W. Bush’s administration provided the oversight committee with numerous documents and witnesses during the investigations into issues including US Army soldier Pat Tillman’s death and the handling of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.
Cummings said during the Obama administration, the committee received witness testimony and documents related to the Benghazi attacks.
Trump has regularly called the investigations into his administration a “witch hunt” and “presidential harassment.”
Cummings defended his committee’s investigations, saying, “this has nothing to do with presidential harassment and everything to do with unprecedented obstruction.”
CNN’s Pamela Brown, Kaitlan Collins, Lauren Fox and Manu Raju contributed to this report.