Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly Weighs In On Investigation Into Rob Porter
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And we're going to stay with that story and turn now to Congressman Gerry Connolly. He's a Virginia Democrat and a member of that committee we just heard about, which is investigating the White House timeline of who knew what and when about Rob Porter. Congressman Connolly, welcome.
GERRY CONNOLLY: Great to be with you.
KELLY: Great to have you with us. When did you first learn that the House Oversight Committee would be launching an investigation into this Rob Porter controversy?
CONNOLLY: Actually, when we were watching CNN this morning and saw Trey Gowdy asked three different times when and if the committee would ever look at this.
KELLY: You did not know before that.
CONNOLLY: I did not know that before that. But I will make this point, which was absent from the previous report we just heard. The minority, the Democrats on our committee, have been asking since June, 8 months ago, from the White House and four months ago, October, from Trey Gowdy, what about these security clearances? Why are they incomplete?
Why have some been withheld? What's the policy of issuing interim security clearances? Had we gotten a response from either the White House or Trey Gowdy, we might have uncovered this before the enormous fallout from the Rob Porter case. And only this morning did Chairman Gowdy finally decide to do something about it. Your previous report talked about our subpoena power.
We asked for subpoenas to be issued in this matter weeks ago and never got a response from Chairman Trey Gowdy. So...
KELLY: I think you've just answered my next question, which is whether this investigation is a bipartisan effort. Will you and your Democratic colleagues participate?
CONNOLLY: Well, obviously we've been asking for this for quite some time. We're delighted that finally Chairman Trey Gowdy has decided to come out of the cave and work with us to try to get at the truth. But you've got to remember - and the reference was made to the fact that he was the chairman of the special committee on Benghazi.
He was the Torquemada of Benghazi. And since he became chairman, his job seems to have been keep a lid on it, ask no questions, seek no answers. And this is the first time he's come out of the cave to do something like this with respect to this White House.
KELLY: All right, so he has, Trey Gowdy, has, as chairman of the committee, has sent letters now to the White House as we just heard, also to the FBI trying to square these two very different versions of the Rob Porter timeline we've been hearing about. What questions, Congressman, do you want answers to? Give me your top one or two questions.
CONNOLLY: Well, I think you put it very well earlier. What did you know, and when did you know it? And who knew what? So did the White House counsel know that there were serious issues and allegations raised about Rob Porter that prevented him from getting a security clearance? The lack of intellectual curiosity by General Kelly, the chief of staff in the White House, about Rob Porter and this case is very troubling.
You know, I used to work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We all needed security clearances. And if there was some impediment to that, you weren't going to be hired. So how can someone...
KELLY: Let me stay with the - forgive me, but I want to get to this security clearance question before I let you go. In the moments we have left, you have called for new legislation, new congressional oversight. What specifically can Congress do to fix what you see as a broken security process?
CONNOLLY: Well, I think, frankly, we can codify the time period in which somebody has in the White House to get that interim security clearance to a full security clearance. We can shorten the review period and have a hammer fall that if you don't pass muster, you've got to leave.
KELLY: How many months? I mean, what's reasonable to you?
CONNOLLY: Well, I mean, obviously a topic of discussion. But I think indefinite security clearance - interim security clearance, is just not acceptable. And I'm very troubled by people who have trouble getting a clearance having access to very highly classified material.
KELLY: Congressman, thank you.
CONNOLLY: Thank you.
KELLY: Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. He's a member of that House Oversight Committee, which has just launched an investigation into the vetting and employment of Rob Porter at the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.