Security clearance probe: Democrats zeroing in on current and former White House officials

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are zeroing in on a handful of current and former officials in President Trump's White House as part of their investigation into the administration's security clearance practices.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has ramped up the probe in recent weeks, accusing the White House of stonewalling his efforts to obtain additional documentation and information about the process.

He released a memo Monday detailing allegations raised by White House staffer Tricia Newbold, who has worked as a career official in the Executive Office of the President for 18 years.

Newbold told committee staff last month that she and other career staffers denied applications for multiple security clearances, decisions that were later overturned by senior officials in order to allow those individuals to access classified material.

The list of individuals whose clearances were granted despite initial denials totaled 25, according to Newbold.

While Cummings did not identify the 25 people in Monday's memo, here are nine current and former officials the committee has prioritized as part of its investigation into White House security clearances.

John Bolton

Democrats are seeking additional information on Bolton's security clearance, a subject party members aired concerns about when the national security adviser joined the Trump administration last spring.

The president picked Bolton in March 2018 to replace H.R. McMaster, and he has become a key voice on the administration's strategy in North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Bolton worked in the State Department and Justice Department under previous Republican presidents, but Democrats seized on a more recent interaction with Russian nationals in questioning his clearance bonafides.

Bolton appeared in a video for the Russian gun rights group The Right to Bear Arms in 2013. The group was established by Russian politician Alexander Torshin, a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Cummings, who at the time was ranking member of the Oversight committee, sought details upon Bolton's appointment over whether he had reported his previous work with the group.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) suggested last year that Bolton's contacts with the group could impede his ability to receive a clearance.

Jared Kushner

Democrats have had the president's son-in-law and senior adviser in their crosshairs for more than a year over concerns about conflicts of interest and security clearance levels.

Those qualms ratcheted up earlier this year after The New York Times reported that Trump ordered Kushner receive a top-secret security clearance despite flags raised by the intelligence community.

Kushner had his security clearance downgraded in February 2018 from top secret to secret, meaning he would no longer be able to view top-secret intelligence. It was revealed around the same time that he had been operating with a temporary clearance.

He received a permanent clearance in May 2018.

Kushner has a broad portfolio within the administration, leading efforts on criminal justice reform, Middle East peace talks and other topics. Democrats and other critics have raised concerns that his business interests could make him susceptible during negotiations with foreign leaders.

Ivanka Trump

The president's daughter and senior adviser has also been a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats, including some who have questioned her role in the administration.

Ivanka Trump has spearheaded a number of efforts focused on the economy, family leave and tax reform. But she has also run into government ethics hurdles along the way, drawing scrutiny from congressional Democrats and watchdog groups.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Kushner, were reportedly fined in 2017 after they missed a deadline for filing financial reports required by the Office of Government Ethics.

She also reportedly violated federal records rules by sending emails to government officials from her personal email account in 2017.

CNN reported last month that the president pressured former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former White House counsel Don McGahn to grant Ivanka Trump a clearance despite their recommendations otherwise.

Michael Flynn

Flynn's brief tenure as Trump's national security adviser was overshadowed by questions about his contacts with foreign officials.

The retired Army lieutenant general resigned in February 2017, shortly after he took the post, amid reports he misled Trump transition and administration officials, including Vice President Pence, about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office.

Flynn initially denied reports that he spoke with the Russian ambassador about new sanctions levied by the outgoing Obama administration, but later admitted he had given Pence "incomplete information."

The Justice Department unsealed charges late last year against two of Flynn's associates, alleging they engaged in a secret lobbying campaign on behalf of the Turkish government. Flynn was not named in the indictment, but a "Person A" described in the filing matches his description.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He is still awaiting sentencing.

Rob Porter

Porter's February 2018 departure as White House staff secretary prompted a firestorm of questions over the administration's security clearance process, and even some changes.

Porter resigned after public allegations that he abused his two ex-wives. Kelly, who at the time was chief of staff, was among White House staff who initially defended Porter, saying they only learned of the accusations when they were reported in the press.

But FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that the bureau notified the White House months earlier that the allegations turned up during Porter's background check.

The Republican-led House Oversight committee at the time launched an investigation into the White House's handling of the allegations and sought clarity on whether proper security clearance practices were followed when hiring Porter.

The White House did not say whether there were any improprieties, but issued a memo in March 2018 detailing changes to its security clearance policies.

The memo established a working group to address the standards for security clearances, and explained that the White House had changed its approach to granting interim clearances.

Sebastian Gorka

Gorka served as a special assistant to the president until August 2017, but it’s unclear whether he resigned or was fired.

The former Breitbart News employee said he resigned out of frustration with recent changes in the administration, but the White House disputed that account.

Kelly, who took over as chief of staff weeks before Gorka's departure, reportedly revoked the counterterrorism adviser's security clearance prior to his ouster, further complicating his standing in the administration.

K.T. McFarland

McFarland served a brief stint in the White House, working as the deputy national security adviser under Flynn. She stepped down in April 2017, a short time after Flynn's resignation.

The president later nominated McFarland as ambassador to Singapore, but the nomination was withdrawn in February 2018 after Republicans and Democrats voiced opposition in light of allegations that she deceived the Senate about what she knew about Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

McFarland told lawmakers she "was not aware" of conversations between Flynn and Russian officials, but court documents later revealed that Flynn had emailed her about his contacts with the Russian envoy during the 2016 presidential transition.

John McEntee

McEntee worked as the president's personal assistant until March 2018, when troubles getting a security clearance reportedly played a role in his departure.

Multiple media reports at the time said McEntee was fired after he was denied a security clearance because of concerns about his finances and gambling habits.

McEntee was part of Trump's entourage dating back to his presidential campaign, and his duties included making sure the president had markers to sign autographs, delivering messages to Trump at his residence and ensuring the White House clocks were adjusted for daylight saving time, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Trump campaign announced upon his exit that McEntee was rejoining the campaign as a senior adviser.

Robin Townley

Townley was a top aide to Flynn, but was reportedly denied a key security clearance that would have allowed him to serve on the National Security Council.

The CIA rejected Townley's "Sensitive Compartmented Information" clearance, Politico reported in February 2017.

It was not clear why Townley's clearance was rejected. He was a close ally of Flynn's and a former Marine intelligence officer.

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