Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, February 13th, 2018.


White House Lied About Porter’s Security Clearance, and Other Insecurity News

Trump Maladministration

The White House claimed that Rob Porter’s background check was still pending when he was ousted last week. Today FBI Director Christopher Wray let it be known the FBI had completed Porter’s background check in July.

“What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said, noting that the FBI “followed the established protocol” with Porter.

“Soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And then we administratively closed the file in January,” he continued. “And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

White House spokesperson Raj Shah told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, describing the White House’s position, that Porter’s background check “had not been completed yet. It was still in the investigative process and had yet to be adjudicated. So prior to an adjudication, the White House is not going to step into the middle of a process and short circuit it.”

The FBI, however, doesn’t give security clearances.

People familiar with the process for obtaining clearance said the FBI does not make any final decisions or recommendations and that the White House, specifically the counsel’s office and the security office, would have been heavily involved in deciding whether to grant Porter clearance.

Porter is among multiple West Wing aides still working on interim clearances, according to administration officials. …

… At Tuesday’s hearing, director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that people with temporary security clearance should get only limited access to sensitive, classified information, calling the process “broken.” Coats did not mention any individuals.

“Sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot, but … access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive,” Coats said. “It needs to be reformed.”

So, this security clearance screwup is entirely the White House’s screwup.

Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, addressed the situation with Russian interference with elections.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Coats.

His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.

Sen. Mark R. Warner commented,

“What we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.”

“Despite all of this, the president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,” Warner continued. “He didn’t increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn’t even tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.”

See also Why there’s so much chaos in the Trump administration by Ezra Klein.

Update: Since this morning, Sarah Sanders has been reduced to admitting she doesn’t know what the bleep is going on (“Obviously the press team’s not going to be as read-in, maybe, as some other elements, at a given moment, on a variety of topics.”) Axios reports that John Kelly is becoming more isolated. Nobody is saying whether Trump knew that Porter was a bad security risk, or not.

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