Senators question White House on security clearances for Flynn and another Trump adviser

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 7:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 10:29pm

Four Democratic senators have charged in a series of letters that the appointment of Michael Flynn as Donald Trump’s national security adviser “might have jeopardised national security” and demanded information on why seemingly obvious red flags were overlooked in his vetting for the position.

The senators also questioned the granting of a

top secret security clearance to Sebastian Gorka, a former editor at the Breitbart website who is a senior adviser to Trump. The senators accused Gorka of not noting on his US citizenship application that he had belonged to a neo-Nazi group in his native Hungary.

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“Portions of the White House’s security clearance process have experienced breakdowns since the beginning of the new administration,” the four ­senators, all members of the Homeland Security Committee, wrote in a series of letters, which were addressed to Defence Secretary James Mattis,

FBI Director James Comey and Marcia Lee Kelly, director of management and administration at the White House.

The senator’s interest in how the Trump administration vetted its top advisers adds another layer to congressional investigations into a White House now enmeshed in at least three inquiries into whether Trump campaign advisers colluded with Russia to influence the results of last year’s election.

Flynn has offered to testify in those probes if he is granted immunity from prosecution, but neither the House and Senate intelligence committees nor the FBI – have indicated an interest accepting his offer.

Portions of the White House’s security clearance process have experienced breakdowns since the beginning of the new administration

A House intelligence committee spokesman said the subject of immunity did not come up in what he called “a preliminary discussion” with Flynn’s lawyer. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, said that while Flynn’s suggestion of immunity was “a grave and momentous step” for a former national security adviser, granting it is probably premature in an investigation that “grows in severity and magnitude by the day”.

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Schiff noted, for example, that the House committee still has not received information from the FBI on whether Flynn had said in his background-check application that he had acted as a paid agent for Turkey last year, a declaration he belatedly made to the Justice Department on March 8, more than three weeks after he resigned. The four senators, Thomas Carper, Margaret Hassan, Claire McCaskill, and Jon Tester, expressed similar frustration at what they say is a lack of information to their questions about the vetting of top administration officials.

A letter sent in early March to the White House requesting details on Flynn’s security clearance process has not been answered.