The Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee revealed on CNN on Wednesday morning that he’s launched an investigation of White House’s handling of the Rob Porter domestic abuse scandal.
It took a while for oversight committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to acknowledge it. Early during the interview, Gowdy — who recently announced he will not seek another term in Congress — said he’s skeptical of reports indicating Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about domestic abuse allegations against former top aide Rob Porter for months.
“We do have jurisdiction over the security clearance process — I do not have jurisdiction over the president hires,” Gowdy said. “Congress has lots of questions of the executive branch that go unanswered.”
But after host Alisyn Camerota put the question to him directly, Gowdy confirmed that an investigation actually began on Tuesday night — hours after FBI Director Christopher Wray indicated during congressional testimony that the White House has been lying about how much information the FBI shared with the administration about Porter’s alleged history of abuse and when it was shared.
“What matters to me is that we are directing inquires to people that we think have access to information we don’t have,” Gowdy said. “You can call it official, you can call it unofficial, those words don’t mean anything to me. What means something to me is that I am going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer, and if they don’t answer them, then they are going to need to give me a really good reason and you’ll learn that reason and you can judge if it’s a sufficient reason or not.”
Gowdy indicated he’s specifically interested in learning more about what information the FBI shared with the White House and when top administration officials were looped in.
“I would want to know from Don McGahn and General Kelly and anyone else – what did you know, from whom did you hear it, to what extent did you hear it, and what actions, if any, did you take?” Gowdy said. “The chronology is not favorable for the White House. When you have the head of the FBI saying we told you three times in 2017 and once more in 2018 for good measure, then I think the really fair questions are what were you told, by whom were you told it, did you have some reason to question what the bureau told you, and if none of that is true, why did you keep him on?”
On the heels of Wray’s testimony, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to explain away the contradiction between Wray’s testimony and what she said the day before by pinning blame on the White House personnel security office.
“The White House personnel security office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation report in November,” Sanders said. “But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.”
UPDATE (10:30 a.m.): On Wednesday, Gowdy sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly asking for information about the White House’s security clearance process and what information about Porter officials had when the decision was made to grant Porter a temporary one.
NEW: House Oversight Committee Requests information about security clearances/Rob Porter from Chief of Staff John Kelly in a newly released letter pic.twitter.com/YdakOwadRw
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) February 14, 2018