The elephants continue their dance, and it would appear, for now, Carl Kline, former White House personnel security director has dodged being stepped upon, as a compromise solution has been reached permitting him to be interviewed by Congress. The change followed a few days of public banter and a bit of behind the scenes cajoling which now has Kline scheduled to appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee to be interviewed on the topic of White House security clearance procedures.
Getting the White House to permit Kline to be interviewed required the Committee to agree to the request to allow White House counsel to be present when Kline sits before the committee. It also comes on the heels of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) initiating action which may have resulted in contempt charges against Kline for ignoring the Committee’s subpoena. On April 27, Kline, via his attorney, was advised by Cummings that he may expect questions on the security clearance process, and should also expect to answer questions regarding retaliation within the White House and other questions as deemed appropriate by the Committee.
As we detailed previously, Kline’s personal attorney had instructed Kline to follow the instructions of his employer (the Executive Branch) in the elephant tussle between the Legislative and Executive branches of government.
Kline’s personal attorney has informed the Committee that his client will avail himself to be interviewed on May 1.
What can we expect from the interview of Kline?
The agreement between Kline’s attorney and Representative Jordan limits questions, however, Chairman Cummings has acquiesced only to Kline having his attorney present.
We may expect Kline to field queries concerning White House personnel security policies and practices. Which, to the uninitiated, may appear to be a narrow scope of inquiry. The reality is, White House policies and procedures have been often discussed within numerous contexts and therefore we would expect Kline to be asked to share his perspective, knowledge and mindset concerning a bevy of items which occurred during his tenure as the Personnel Security Office Director. Cummings has signalled that in addition to these, questions concerning retaliation by Kline and others within the White House will also be asked. We expect that questions for Kline may include:
- The extended duration of interim clearances – Rob Porter was but one example of an individual who should have never been given an interim security clearance, yet worked for months within the White House with an interim clearance.
- The White House and FBI dance concerning background investigation.
- The difference between investigation and adjudication at the White House.
- A February 2018 adjustment of the White House clearance process by then chief of staff, John Kelly – which placed the White House counsel and chief of staff more directly in the mix.
- The adjudication of specific individuals to include special advisor to the President, Jared Kushner.
- Claims made by Kline’s subordinate, Tricia Newbold, concerning 25 individual cases where staff recommendations of “No Clearance” were overruled by Kline
- Retaliation by Kline toward Newbold.
Suffice it to say, Kline will be defending both his own behavior and decision making process and also the President’s authority to overrule the Personnel Security Office’s adjudication decisions.
We’ll all be watching C-SPAN on May 1 as Kline is “interviewed” by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Whether it’s an illuminating discussion or congressional theater will remain to be seen.