With Attorney General William Barr’s unilateral decision to refrain from prosecuting President Trump for his obvious obstruction in the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, it now appears that the nation’s best chance at bringing the Trump administration down will be by what amounts to death by a thousand cuts as “smaller” scandals —smaller than treason anyway — being investigated by both Congress and federal and state prosecutors around the country wind their way through the inquiry process.
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The latest scandal is one that could hardly be called minor as it involves serious risks to our national security. It resulted from the revelations by White House staffer Tricia Newbold, a career security official in the Executive Office of the President for 18 years, who told staffers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee that as many as 25 people whose applications for security clearances were denied by her and her colleagues were later overturned by senior White House officials to allow the rejected applicants access to classified materials.
Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) announced a renewed focus on the irregularities in the security clearance process in the Trump administration after his efforts to get more information from the Oval Office about the accusations were rebuffed.
Representative Cummings did not publish a list of all of the 25 people whose background checks raised red flags for the security professionals but who were nonetheless approved by higher-ups in the White House, but he did list the nine current and former Trump officials that the committee has prioritized for investigation.
Unsurprisingly, the list is a who’s who of major Trump administration figures and includes members of the president’s own family, according to an article at The Hill.
The list of shame includes:
- John Bolton
- Jared Kushner
- Ivanka Trump
- Michael Flynn
- Rob Porter
- Sebastian Gorka
- K.T. McFarland
- John McEntee
- Robin Townley
For most of the people on Rep. Cummings’ top nine list, the initial questions about their ability to pass the requirements for top security clearances stem from contacts or work for foreign powers, from conflicts of business interests, from improperly or unsubstantially completed paperwork, failure to follow federal records preservation regulations, or, in Rob Porter’s case, from accusations of spousal abuse.
The Hill article details all of the questions related to each individual on the list, but until the House Oversight Committee gets answers as to how and why these individuals were allowed to skirt regulations passed to ensure that the security of our nation’s most closely held intelligence is held paramount over the narrow interests of an individual administration, we have no way of knowing how badly our security has been compromised.
Given the careful and narrowly-defined language in the letter Attorney General William Barr used to summarize the “principle conclusions” of the Mueller report —which only said in the end that there was not enough evidence of conspiracy with the “Russian Government” to indict the President while failing to mention any evidence of non-governmental contacts with other Russian citizens or other foreign governments — American’s can’t be certain that our national security hasn’t already been breached.
Certainly, Congress needs to see the entire Mueller report, as does the public at large, to find out all of the details of what Mueller’s investigation uncovered. Getting to the bottom of the motivation for over-ruling security professionals will go a long way to explain some of the more bizarre decisions to emanate from the Trump administration and should help the public understand the stakes that are at play right now.
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Original reporting by Brett Samuels At The Hill.