A Trump official has come forward with major concerns about security at the White House, according to a House Oversight and Reform Committee report.
Tricia Newbold, the adjudications manager in the Personnel Security Office, came forward with what the committee is calling “grave breaches of national security” at the White House that she has witnessed over the past two years, including 25 individuals who were allowed security clearance despite recommendations that their applications be denied.
“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,” Newbold told the committee, according to a letter from Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to the White House counsel to the president.
The whistleblower’s report highlights the Trump White House’s inability to attract top-level talent. Previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, were seen as prestigious places to work, giving hiring managers large numbers of applicants for every position and letting them screen out candidates with dubious work histories.
But highly qualified Republicans have largely avoided Trump administration jobs for fear that working for Trump would hurt their reputations and careers. Republicans who dislike Trump disparage many of those working at the White House and in top agency jobs as “C and D list” staffers who would never have been able to find work in a normal GOP administration.
A committee memo outlines Newbold’s claims while reiterating that she’s taking a huge personal risk by coming forward. Newbold says that she’s tried to come forward to her superiors about her security concerns — which she documented in a list of individuals whose “drug use and criminal conduct” made them unfit for security clearance — but was ignored or told to change her mind.
In one instance, she says, she drafted a security clearance denial for a “high-profile official” and brought it to White House Director of Personnel Security Carl Kline, who “called me in his office and asked me to change
the recommendation. I said I absolutely would not.”
In response, Republican committee members drafted a memo calling the Democrats’ interview of Newbold “partisan” and attempted to undermine the witness’ credibility by noting that she found “only 4-5” people who may have qualified as “very serious” breaches of national security.
One point in the countermemo reads: “Ms. Newbold testified that only 4-5 of her unfavorable 25 adjudications were for “very serious reasons.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), ranking member of the committee, released a statement on Monday calling the investigation a sham.
“Chairman Cummings’ investigation is not about restoring integrity to the security clearance process, it is an excuse to go fishing through the personal files of dedicated public servants,” Jordan said. “The process by which this matter has so far progressed has been anything but fair.”
Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who served as spokesman for the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama, said he was not aware of anything similar happening during his time in the White House.
“The process was sacrosanct in the sense that career officials had the final say. There was a recognition that even the appearance of political pressure could raise concerns,” Price said. “But here’s the other difference: senior White House officials in the Obama era tended to be individuals who had served at high levels of career service or who had previously served in senior appointed positions. This administration is rather unique in the number of officials who have never held positions of public trust — or who haven’t done so in many years.”
This story has been updated with more details from the investigation, the GOP memo in response and comment from Price.