Tricia Newbold, the whistleblower with concerns about granting national security clearances, has told a House committee that she fully realized President Donald Trump has the legal authority to award his appointees access to the nation’s secrets if he so chooses. What upset her was that, when staff concerns were raised about certain clearances for certain appointees, the worries were repeatedly swept aside. Her alarming statements raise anew the question about whether Trump and his White House have been reckless in handling this essential process to protect the nation’s secrets. Congress must find out.
A few weeks ago, concerns were raised about Trump ordering an upgrade in the level of access for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, essentially overriding concerns of the intelligence community. Now Newbold suggests this was not an isolated example. In 25 cases, she says, the White House has shunted aside information that might disqualify an appointee from handling national security secrets.
Newbold has shown great principle and courage in going public, and her account, as outlined by the committee, suggests that White House officials in higher positions have behaved cavalierly and carelessly.
In effect, Newbold says the system is broken. She is quoted as saying, “And I feel that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back to our office.” She is an 18-year career employee of the Executive Office of the President; she has worked for Democrats and Republicans.
The law allows Trump to grant security clearances at his own discretion. He has made it obvious that what he prizes most in appointees is extreme personal fealty. But this is about something else: fealty to the security of the nation. Trump has a duty to be a steward of its secrets. Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has properly announced further investigation of Newbold’s revelations.