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Cummings moves to hold ex-White House official in contempt for refusing to testify

Possible subpoenas over security clearances

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings says he'll schedule a vote on whether to hold a former administration official in contempt of Congress after he failed to come for a hearing.

Cummings had subpoenaed former White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline to appear for a deposition with committee staff Tuesday. But Kline -- at the administration's direction -- didn't show up. 

The security clearance process in the White House has come under intense criticism in recent months. Tricia Newbold, a longtime White House employee and whistleblower who voiced her concerns to Cummings' committee, claimed Cline retaliated when she told him the Trump administration wasn't following standard security clearance procedures. 

Cummings sharply criticized the White House for refusing to let Kline show. 

"The American people want transparency and accountability from this administration, but we can't provide that if we don't have the information we need," Cummings said Tuesday in a statement. "I intend to consult with House counsel and committee members about scheduling a vote on contempt. I hope that Mr. Kline, in close consultation with his personal attorney, will carefully review his legal obligations, reconsider his refusal to appear, and begin cooperating with the committee's investigation."

Cummings first wrote to the White House asking that Kline and others appear for voluntary interviews in late January, and Cummings issued the subpoena for Kline in early February. At the time, Cummings said he wanted to talk to Kline about the decisions to overrule career officials who had rejected dozens of White House security clearances.

But a GOP spokesperson for the committee said Cummings picked "confrontation" over cooperation. 

"When faced with choice of cooperation or confrontation, Chairman Cummings picked confrontation," the spokesperson said. "Ranking Member Jordan and other Republicans on the Committee encouraged Mr. Kline to come in voluntarily. Mr. Kline agreed to do so. Despite that, Chairman Cummings rushed to a subpoena in his insatiable quest to sully the White House. In doing so, he trampled over the normally deliberate and reasonable processes by which the committee operates. This is a shame. We were looking forward to Mr. Kline's testimony - as so far we have only heard from a sole witness on the security clearance issue."

Cummings' decision to schedule a contempt vote is part of an ongoing battle between congressional Democrats and the White House. On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report revealed that President Trump had asked McGahn to fire Mueller on more than one occasion. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization have sued Cummings to block his subpoena for Trump business records, claiming Congress only has the ability to conduct investigations and oversight insofar as it aids the legislative process. Cummings didn't take well to that suggestion. 

"The president has a long history of trying to use baseless lawsuits to attack his adversaries, but there is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress," Cummings said in a statement Monday. 

"This complaint reads more like political talking points than a reasoned legal brief, and it contains a litany of inaccurate information. The White House is engaged in unprecedented stonewalling on all fronts, and they have refused to produce a single document or witness to the Oversight Committee during this entire year."

— CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report 

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