Trump White House Tells Employees Subpoenaed By Congress To Flip Them Off And Sh*t In Their Eyes
Carl Kline is the former White House official who allegedly overrode career staff to greenlight security clearances for Jared, Ivanka, and 23 other Trump officials despite "a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct." Which is bad enough on its face, but Kline is going to make a uniquely terrible witness for the government. You may remember Kline as the boss from hell who took revenge on whistleblower Tricia Newbold, by moving files physically out of her reach so she couldn't do her job.
Newbold, who was born with a rare form of congenital dwarfism, said Kline began placing dossiers and paperwork she needed on high shelves or filing cabinets beyond her reach. To her, that maneuver, coupled with Kline overriding her security warnings, not only threatened national security but assaulted her self-esteem, hard-earned through three excruciating, months-long series of surgeries in her teens that had stretched her tiny body from 3-foot-5 to 4-foot-2 and given her access to the workforce. Her new physique allowed her to completely shed her sense of herself as disabled, she says. Then came Kline.
"That was the first time I ever felt disabled," she tells Newsweek in a wide-ranging interview in early April. "It was really hard for me to accept who I was. I'd never accepted I was little, I never identified with being little, and here it was." At work she remained strong, but at home at night her composure would crack. Until last year, she says, her children "didn't even know what the word dwarf meant." But by late last year, she says, her 11-year-old daughter "had to dry my tears more than any child should ever have to do for their parent."
If you were the White House, would you want Carl Kline on the stand?
And thus did acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney inform House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings that despite his lawful subpoena, he would not have the pleasure of Mr. Kline's company. Welcome to the unending constitutional crises of the next two years!
Dear Chairman Cummings:
As you are aware, on April 18, 2019, I wrote to the Committee on Oversight and Reform ("the Committee") regarding the attendance of a representative from the Office of Counsel to the President at the deposition of former White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline. The letter indicated that unless the Committee would allow a representative of this office to attend with Mr. Kline, in order to preserve and protect Executive Branch confidentiality interests, Mr. Kline, would be instructed not to appear on April 23, 2019.
On April 22, 2019, the committee responded that "[t]he committee will not permit a representative from [this] office to attend the deposition." Letter from Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman to Pat Cipollone, Counsel to the President (April 22, 2019) at 2. Accordingly, and for the reasons stated in our April 18, 2019 letter, the Acting Chief of Staff to the President Mick Mulvaney has directed Mr. Kline not to appear on April 23, 2019.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this matter.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Mick Mulvaney insist that Kline can only testify with a minder from the White House Counsel's office present to protect the privacy of government employees and stop him from discussing any particular clearance determination or Ms. Newbold's pending EEOC complaint. They insist that Congress is only allowed to discuss prospective security clearance procedures, ignoring the fact that the Oversight Committee is routinely granted access to those same documents -- most recently, the Committee reviewed Michael Flynn's SF86, back when Republicans were pretending to do a modicum of actual oversight.
In fact, as Cummings wrote to Cipollone yesterday, House rules explicitly prohibit witnesses from bringing anyone other than their own lawyers into the hearing:
The Committee will not permit a representative from your office to attend the deposition. As your letter correctly notes, Committee Rule 15(e) prohibits officials from your office from attending.
That rule states: Witnesses may be accompanied at a deposition by counsel to advise them of their rights. No one may be present at depositions except members, Committee staff designated by the Chair of the Committee or the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, an official reporter, the witness, and the witness's counsel. Observers or counsel for other persons, or for agencies under investigation, may not attend.
Nonetheless, Cipollone's deputy Michael Purpura purported to relieve Kline of responsibility to answer the subpoena, telling his lawyer, "The Department of Justice is aware of and concurs with the legal position taken by the White House that Mr. Kline does not need to appear for his deposition if no representative of this office is permitted to attend." But surely Robert Driscoll, one of the pre-eminent white collar defense attorneys in DC, knows this hall pass isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Kline is responsible for his own substantial legal fees, and if he goes to jail on a contempt charge, Cipollone and Purpura won't be next to him in that cell.
Driscoll's letter to Chairman Cummings tries to paint Kline as an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, rather than someone who tried to bully his employee into changing clearance denials because Donald Trump was throwing a tantrum over not being able to install the prince and princess at his royal court.
Ah, the old My Client May Have No Legal Leg to Stand On, So We're Going With The Guy Who Signs Our Checks defense -- works every time! And the entreaties to get the records by "substitution of compulsory process" is a nice touch, since Cipollone has been telling Cummings to piss off with those documents requests for months.
Which brings us to this afternoon, when Chairman Cummings followed through on his threat and moved to hold Kline in contempt of Congress.
Your move, Carl! The White House asked you to defy Congress, but they didn't give you a legal leg to stand on. They're not going to be able to spring you from the pokey if the Democrats follow through and lock you up for contempt. And they're sure as hell not helping you with the hundreds of thousand of dollars in legal bills it will cost you to fight this thing.
Which is, if we might interject, kind of the point. Kline is a current Defense Department employee, but he's still essentially on his own in this battle against Congress. And Congress is about to work its way up the food chain, dumping subpoenas and contempt charges on all the little and medium-sized fish in Trumpland to see who'll break under pressure and flip on their boss. Let's see who wants to liquidate their IRA to protect Donald Trump, and who wants to take a grant of immunity? Sweet, sweet music, isn't it?
POLITICS. AIN'T. BEANBAG.
[Purpura Letter to Cummings / Newsweek / Cummings Letter to Cipollone]
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.