Washington, D.C. — This week, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to Monica Block, the Acting Director of the White House Office of Administration, demanding her testimony at a hearing on the Trump Administration’s failure to comply with the Securely Expediting Clearances Through Reporting Transparency Act of 2018 (SECRET Act).
The SECRET Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, required the Director of the Office of Administration to submit a report to Congress by August 20, 2018, explaining the process for conducting and adjudicating security clearance investigations for White House staff.
To date, Block has failed to submit this report, prompting the Subcommittees to seek her testimony at a hearing originally scheduled for yesterday.
“This Committee, this Congress, and indeed, even this President agreed when we enacted the SECRET Act that the responsibility for producing this report to Congress rests with you. It is for this reason that your testimony is necessary,” the Chairmen wrote.
Instead, the White House sent a letter declining the Subcommittees’ invitation to testify.
“The letter relies on a nonsensical reading of the SECRET Act, fails to set forth any legitimate basis for your refusal to appear, and is contrary to historical precedent,” the Chairmen wrote.
The White House argued in its letter that a memo issued by then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on February 16, 2018, and a subsequent briefing “satisfied any reporting obligations.”
“Both the memorandum issued on February 16, 2018, and the briefing on April 11, 2018, occurred before the SECRET Act was enacted on May 22, 2018,” the Chairmen wrote. “It strains credulity to suggest that either the memorandum or subsequent briefing satisfied the requirements of the SECRET Act.”
The White House letter argued that Block cannot provide “any more information on the security clearances process,” but it also admitted that Block maintains “responsibility to create the framework that ensures that PSD [Personnel Security Division] is properly functioning and efficiently executing its mission.”
“Your counsel’s October 24, 2019, letter not only failed to identify any legitimate basis for your refusal to testify, but also disregarded precedent for the Committee to obtain testimony from previous OA Directors,” the Chairmen wrote. “For example, under former Republican Chairman William Clinger, the Clinton Administration’s OA Director, Franklin Reeder, testified before this Committee not once, but twice,” noted the Chairman.
Lynch and Connolly requested that Block notify the Subcommittees by November 8, 2019, whether she intends to appear voluntarily.
You may read the letter to Block here.