Cummings warns Kline that the White House ordering him not to appear ‘is not a valid legal reason’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic chairman of a congressional committee has put off holding a former White House security clearance chief in contempt until after the panel interviews him about decisions made on some of President Donald Trump’s advisers.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee voted last week to subpoena Carl Kline over whistleblower allegations that the Trump administration inappropriately reversed career officials’ decisions to deny some advisers security clearances. Congressional sources said the aides included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in a letter to Kline on Saturday that he would be allowed to have lawyers present for an interview with committee members on Wednesday. However, he said the scope of questioning will not be limited, as the White House and Kline’s lawyer had requested, according to the letter released by the committee.

“You will be expected to answer all of the committee’s questions, including questions about specific White House officials and allegations of retaliation against the whistleblower,” Cummings said. “If you answer all of these questions, there would be no need for the committee to pursue contempt against you in the future.”

Tricia Newbold, a career security official at the White House for 18 years, has said the Trump administration overruled security experts to give questionable security clearances to more than two dozen people.

Cummings warned Kline that, even though the White House ordered him not to appear before the committee, “That is not a valid legal reason to defy a congressional subpoena.”

The Republican Trump vowed last week to resist every subpoena from House Democrats investigating his administration and to fight any effort by them to impeach him.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)