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U.S. House panel to vote on holding White House ex-official in contempt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House committee will vote on holding a former White House security director in contempt for failing to appear for questioning on allegations the Trump administration inappropriately granted clearances to some of the president’s advisers, the panel’s chairman said on Tuesday.

“We will hold a vote of our committee shortly to hold him in contempt and then we will check with House counsel ... to see where we go from there,” House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in an interview with MSNBC. The Democratic lawmaker did not specify a date.

Carl Kline, who served as the White House personnel security chief for the first two years of Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and now works for the Department of Defence, had been called to appear before the committee at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT).

The White House told the committee it had directed Kline to ignore the subpoena, the panel said in a statement, but Trump did not assert “any Constitutional or other privilege that would have relieved Mr. Kline of his legal obligation to testify.”

A lawyer for Kline also told the panel he would not appear.

Lawmakers have three ways to enforce a subpoena against uncooperative subjects, the Congressional Research Service said in a 2017 report, including using its “long dormant” power to detain and imprison them until they comply, referring a contempt citation to the executive branch for criminal prosecution or seeking a civil judgment from a U.S. court.

Cummings had led the push to subpoena Kline amid the panel’s investigation into the security clearance process under Trump following whistleblower allegations that the White House overruled career officials’ decisions and granted security clearances to certain advisers.

Congressional sources have said those advisers included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as top White House officials.

The vote to subpoena Kline passed the Democratic-led committee earlier this month, 22-15, along party lines.

On Monday, Trump sued the committee to fight a separate subpoena for his financial records.

Reporting by Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney