For a delightful change, something surreal made news this week. The US House Oversight Committee and US House Judiciary Committee are apparently issuing dozens of subpoenas – to members and former members of the Trump Administration – on a beeline for impeachment. Imagine that!
Among putatively objective “congressional investigations” is one led by Democrats into whether President Trump’s White House managed top-secret security clearances properly, including the grant of a clearance to Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior advisor to the President.
Why does this chest-pounding investigation strike anyone who knows federal law, US House and intelligence rules as somewhat surreal – more accurately audacious, ignoble, and borderline absurd?
Here is why. Four simple reasons.
First, a president – any president – has legal authority to grant a security clearance to anyone, including family members who are senior administration officials – even over objections of security officials, detractors and other political actors.
To be painfully specific, the US Constitution imposes no limitation, nor does any federal statute, on a President in this area. Security clearances are a creation of presidents, parameters regularly redefined, as in Executive Order 12968, under President Bill Clinton. No capricious limitation would be constitutional.
Notably, even the New York Times (November 16, 2016) conceded President Trump’s grant of access to family members who are White House advisors was permissible. For Democrats who are not yet convinced, consider President Kennedy granting similar access to his Attorney General-brother. Reflect on dalliances which might have created a security concern. Need we say more?
Second, in the early 1990s, after Bill Clinton’s first and second elections, an oddity surfaced surrounding White House clearances. As the record reveals, hundreds of interim clearances were granted to Clinton White House staffers.
Putting aside that untethered process, the oddity: Investigations supposed to take 3-8 months for top-secret, were taking years. Young people in Clinton’s White House clung to these interim clearances for more than two years. What was up?
The FBI was asked by Congress why these Clinton White House full-field investigations were taking so long. The FBI conceded key forms – required by law to be submitted in days – were not submitted by Clinton White House staffers.
Repeated FBI requests for the forms and interviews were stiff-armed. Calls were not returned. White House Counsel and President Clinton did nothing to terminate the interims – or enforce compliance with full-field FBI and OPM investigations.
Eventually, the issue came to a head. Years after Clinton interims were granted, the truth came out. What do you think led to non-submissions and unanswered calls, those dodged interviews and staff deception? Drug use. As media reported, Clinton White House staffers feared being asked about prior drug use.
Point is not drug use. Point is this: Truth and transparency are everything in granting or withholding a clearance. Past drug use is not disqualifying, but dodging and denying, deceiving and lying – is dispositive. The Clinton White House staff who dodged and maintained interims, were a security risk. What happened? Nothing. So, beware all those kettles calling the pot black.
Third, one fact makes this whole Democrat investigation a crock. This will shock many Americans, but is true. All members of Congress – from the US House Oversight and Judiciary Committee members to inexperienced, vocal Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) – are not required to hold a security clearance and can see anything they wish, classified or not. How about that?
Let that fact sink in: Members of Congress – now sitting in judgment on whether others can see classified material or hold clearances – can see everything, with no clearance, and no questions asked. I know, as I was staff director and counsel to an oversight subcommittee – with subpoena power, which we seldom used.
More to the point, many congressional members – if put through a full-field investigation – would be denied a clearance. They would be deemed a security risk. Their pasts – as a matter of record – include untruths told, crimes committed, drug use unadmitted, questions of integrity, infidelity, incongruous statements, questionable practices, and suspect foreign associations.
But no members of Congress are put through the rigor of a security clearance – at any level. Nevertheless, they now sit in judgment of others, whom they claim may be unworthy of a security clearance. Is that not surreal?
To cap the irony, a member of Congress who violates public trust and would immediately have a clearance pulled, is allowed to continue serving – and keep seeing sensitive information – since they have and need no clearance. There is no way to divest a member of Congress of access to classified information.
Finally, because the issue has been raised, the question must be asked: If Democrat members – of House Intelligence, Judiciary or Oversight – continue to ask about this issue, despite knowing the law, why?
The answer can only be that they are on a beeline for impeachment, with their own hypocrisy, precedent, and arrogance notwithstanding. Or it may be that they want to nobble a Trump-Pence reelection through insinuation, hoping most Americans will not see the surrealism in what they are doing.
They think Americans will rally to their rage, join the chorus of condemnation they have orchestrated, and not bother with facts. Only you now know the facts. They give the lie to this investigation. Ah, you say: For a delightful change, something surreal made news this week.