The White House has declined a request from Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, for information on former aide Rob Porter, Talking Points Memo reports.
In a letter sent earlier this week, Gowdy and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested information on how Porter was given interim security clearance by the White House, despite the intimate partner violence allegations made by two ex-wives. The domestic violence allegations against Porter were noted by the FBI during their background investigation and reportedly ignored by White House officials.
In a letter to the House Oversight Committee, the White House’s Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short assured Gowdy that the White House “has acted to improve security clearance procedures, which it inherited from prior administrations.” Short noted that Chief of Staff John Kelly issued a “memorandum directing further reforms,” after the Porter incident prompted a review. Short’s letter included the memorandum from Kelly.
But, as TPM points out, Short’s letter did not answer Gowdy’s pointed and specific questions:
Gowdy had demanded in that letter to know when exactly the White House was informed of Porter’s problematic background, which opened him up to potential blackmail. Gowdy also asked who knew of it at what time, and why Porter was allowed to keep his interim security clearance and view highly classified information in spite of the problem. Gowdy also asked for specifics on the White House’s since-overhauled security clearance procedures and whether those procedures had been followed with Porter.
Instead, the White House’s response side-stepped those questions entirely, blaming “prior administrations,” for Porter’s interim security clearance.
After the Daily Mail reported the domestic violence allegations against Porter, which include physical and verbal abuse, Porter resigned from the White House. The scandal left the Trump administration scrambling for an explanation, even as reports indicated that Don McGahn and Kelly were aware of the domestic violence allegations (Kelly has claimed he wasn’t aware of the extent of Porter’s abuse). Though the White House never quite managed to stitch together either a believable timeline or an explanation for why Porter had interim clearance, shortly after Porter’s resignation, Kelly revisited White House security clearance procedures. The decision left many White House staffers without clearance, including Jared Kushner.
TPM notes that Gowdy could still subpoena the information, though it’s unclear that he will do so. But what is clear is that the White House will continue to follow its Porter playbook, a little bit of blame and a lot of denial, coupled with a refusal to acknowledge the institutional failure that Porter’s tenure at the White House exposed.