WASHINGTON ― White House officials are refusing to turn over information to congressional leaders on their handling of domestic abuse allegations against former top aide Rob Porter, further raising questions about the Trump administration’s already muddled explanations.
House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) launched an investigation into the White House’s handling of the matter on Feb. 14, giving chief of staff John Kelly a deadline of Feb. 28 to submit information, particularly on why Porter worked under an interim security clearance to handle sensitive information.
But in a letter on Thursday night, first reported by Talking Points Memo, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short did not provide answers to the committee’s questions about Porter, and suggested to Gowdy that officials would not cooperate until a later time.
Porter resigned last month after reporting by The Daily Mail and The Intercept revealed allegations that he had physically abused his two ex-wives. The White House continually changed its story of what officials, particularly Kelly, knew about the allegations against Porter, and for how long.
FBI Director Christopher Wray later contradicted key parts of the administration’s account, saying that the bureau had warned the White House about the allegations as early as last March, and completed its investigation this January, several weeks before Porter resigned.
In his letter, Short told Gowdy the White House has formed “a working group” of officials who plan “to streamline, harmonize, and modernize applicable standards across the Administration” regarding the process of background checks and security clearances.
“We would be pleased to update you and others on the progress of the working group at the appropriate time,” Short said.
On Friday, the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), called Short’s letter “a completely inadequate response,” asking Gowdy to issue a subpoena to obtain the information from the White House, or “step aside” from the committee.
“There is an obvious pattern here. Unfortunately, by repeatedly backing down, the Committee has now enabled and emboldened the White House to openly defy congressional oversight,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Gowdy. “It is now clear that the White House will not respond to this Committee unless it is compelled to do so.”
Gowdy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the White House and Cummings letters below.