Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used a Tuesday House hearing to criticize the security protocol of President Donald Trump’s administration and his son-in-law Jared Kushner in particular. The hearing focused on White House security clearances, which Ocasio-Cortez used to bring up reports of Kushner using WhatsApp messaging service for government business.
Per Fox News, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings claims that Abbe Lowell, a Kushner lawyer, said that Kushner uses WhatsApp to conduct White House business and contact “people outside the United States.” But Lowell responded by claiming that Kushner followed all classified information protocols and did not specify if Kushner used the mobile app to communicate with foreign officials or leaders.
Nevertheless, Ocasio-Cortez used the report to address the issue of the White House’s lax attitude toward security clearance and national security.
“We are getting reports from press and from a wide variety of sources that indicate that folks are suggesting that we are conducting foreign relations with folks with security clearances via WhatsApp,” she said.
“Every day that we go on without getting to the bottom of this matter is a day that we are putting hundreds if not potentially thousands of Americans at risk, I mean, really, what is next, putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs?!? This is ridiculous.”
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 2, 2019
As reported by The New York Times, Kushner and other Trump administration officials gained top-secret security clearance in the face of opposition from White House and intelligence officials. Trump’s tendency to order security clearances despite suggestions otherwise have been a recent focus of media reports. In addition, White House employee Tricia Newbold claims that 25 security clearance denials were overruled in a similar manner as Kushner. She also said that one particular individual was granted clearance even in the presence of outside activities, foreign influence, and other typically disqualifying factors.
Kushner himself did not disclose many of the foreign meetings he took when he filed out security clearance forms, per The New York Times. But when career officials suggested that he be denied clearance, Trump favored his son-in-law and overruled them.
In the Tuesday hearing, Ocasio-Cortez brought up the need for subpoenas, suggesting that “people in this administration are not cooperating.” She added that there are daily insecure lines of communication with the potential to be hacked and leaked, which she suggests is “putting our national security at risk.”
The security clearance issue appears to be setting the stage for another battle between the Democrat-controlled House and the White House.