Elijah Cummings Calls for Contempt Vote Against White House Ex-official for Ignoring Subpoena

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. House Democrat aimed on Tuesday to hold a former White House security director in contempt for failing to appear for questioning on allegations that the Trump administration inappropriately granted clearances to some of the president’s advisers.

“I intend to consult with House Counsel and Committee Members about scheduling a vote on contempt,” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in a statement.

Carl Kline, who served as the White House personnel security chief for the first two years of Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and now works for the Department of Defense, had been called to appear before the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT).

The White House told the committee it had directed Kline to ignore the subpoena, the panel said in a statement, but Trump did not assert “any Constitutional or other privilege that would have relieved Mr. Kline of his legal obligation to testify.”

A lawyer for Kline also told the panel he would not appear.

The House, now controlled by Democrats following their election gains last year, could vote to hold Kline in contempt and seek redress in the courts, sparking a legal battle.

Lawmakers have three ways to enforce a subpoena against a uncooperative subject, the Congressional Research Service said in a 2017 report, including using its “long dormant” power to detain and imprison them until they comply, referring a contempt citation to the executive branch for criminal prosecution or seeking a civil judgment from a U.S. court.

Cummings had led the push to subpoena Kline amid the panel’s investigation into the security clearance process under Trump following whistleblower allegations that the White House overruled career officials’ decisions and granted security clearances to certain advisers.

Congressional sources have said those advisers included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as top White House officials.

The vote to subpoena Kline passed the committee earlier this month, 22-15, along party lines.

On Monday Trump sued the committee to fight a separate subpoena for his financial records.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)