Friday April 19, 2019
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Trump Grants National Security to People Rejected by Government for an Array of Concerns

The White House had no immediate comment on the security clearance issues

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FILE - White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks with people in the East Room of the White House, June 29, 2018. VOA

A whistleblower from inside the White House has told congressional investigators that senior Trump administration officials granted national security clearances to at least 25 people that government reviewers had rejected for an array of concerns.

The whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, said the officials, cleared for security credentials after career employees recommended they be denied, include two current unnamed senior White House officials, government contractors, and other staff aides working for the office of President Donald Trump.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process under both Republican and Democratic presidents, last month told investigators for the House Oversight and Reform Committee that while Trump had the right as president to overrule career employees’ denials of the security badges, the officials’ clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security.”

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FILE – House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 14, 2019. VOA

The committee chairman, Congressman Elijah Cummings, told the panel’s members that Newbold told investigators that those eventually cleared by senior Trump administration officials “had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”

Newbold told investigators she had been suspended for 14 days without pay earlier this year after protesting internally about the way in which the security clearance denials had been overturned and now was worried about returning to work after she decided to go public with her concerns.

“I’m terrified of going back,” she told investigators. “I know that this will not be perceived in favor of my intentions, which is to bring back the integrity of the office.”

But Newbold said she decided to become a whistleblower because “I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security.”

Cummings’s memo on Newbold’s statements to investigators did not identify any of the officials who have been granted security clearances against the recommendations of the security reviewers.

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FILE – (L-R) White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington,Aug. 4, 2017. VOA

But the panel said it is reviewing the clearances given to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are White House advisers, and national security adviser John Bolton. News accounts earlier this year said Trump had personally intervened last year to overrule then-White House chief of staff John Kelly to grant a clearance to Kushner, a move Kelly found so unsettling that he recorded Trump’s direction to him in a memo.

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Cummings, in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, said he “has given the White House every possible opportunity to cooperate with the investigation, but you have declined. Your actions are now preventing the committee from obtaining the information it needs to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.”

Cummings said his panel would vote Tuesday to subpoena Newbold’s former boss, Carl Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, along with five other current and former White House officials involved with the security reviews to testify about their role in the clearances.

The White House had no immediate comment on the security clearance issues. (VOA)

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Nancy Pelosi Calls on Trump to Take Down Omar Video Tweet

Pelosi said officials will continue to monitor and assess threats against Omar, and called on Trump to discourage such behavior

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FILE - Rep. Ilhan Omar arrives before NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a Joint Meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. VOA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she has taken steps to ensure the safety of Rep. Ilhan Omar after President Donald Trump’s retweet of a video that purports to show the Minnesota Democrat being dismissive of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The California Democrat also called on Trump to take down the video. Soon after her public request, the video was no longer pinned atop Trump’s Twitter feed, but it was not deleted.

Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump over the tweet, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker. An upstate New York man recently was charged with making death threats against her.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump earlier Sunday, saying the president has a duty to highlight Omar’s history of making comments that others deem anti-Semitic or otherwise offensive and that he wished no “ill will” upon the first-term lawmaker.

Pelosi issued a statement while traveling in London saying she had spoken with congressional authorities “to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff.”

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

Pelosi said officials will continue to monitor and assess threats against Omar, and called on Trump to discourage such behavior.

Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump over the tweet, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker. An upstate New York man recently was charged with making death threats against her.

“The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” Pelosi said. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”

The video in Trump’s tweet on Friday included a snippet from a recent speech Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in which she described the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as “some people did something,” along with news footage of the hijacked airplanes hitting the Twin Towers. Trump captioned his tweet with: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”

Critics accuse Omar of being flippant in describing the perpetrators of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. She later sought to defend herself by tweeting a quote from President George W. Bush, in which the Republican president referred to the attackers as “people” just days after 9/11.

Neither Trump’s tweet nor the video included Omar’s full quote or the context of her comments, which were about Muslims feeling that their civil liberties had eroded after the attacks. The tweet was posted atop Trump’s Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than 9 million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi requested that the video be pulled.

Sanders questioned why Democrats weren’t following Trump’s example and calling out Omar, too. Democrats who criticized the president over the tweet defended Omar, with some noting their past disagreements with her.

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The tweet was posted atop Trump’s Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than 9 million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi requested that the video be pulled. VOA

“Certainly the president is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone, but the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her — not only one time — but history of anti-Semitic comments,” Sanders said. “The bigger question is why aren’t Democrats doing the same thing? It’s absolutely abhorrent the comments that she continues to make and has made and they look the other way.”

Omar repeatedly has pushed fellow Democrats into uncomfortable territory with comments about Israel and the strength of the Jewish state’s influence in Washington. She apologized for suggesting that lawmakers support Israel for pay and said she isn’t criticizing Jews. But she refused to take back a tweet in which she suggested American supporters of Israel “pledge allegiance” to a foreign country.

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Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who represents Manhattan’s financial district, which was targeted on 9/11, said he had no issues with Omar’s characterization of the attack.

“I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not — but not with that one,” he said. Sanders commented on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.” Nadler appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union. (VOA)