White House suspends 'whistleblower' in security clearance office

WASHINGTON — A White House security specialist has been suspended without pay for defying her supervisor Carl Kline, less than a week after NBC News reported Kline approved Jared Kushner for top secret clearance over the objections of career staff.

The specialist, Tricia Newbold, had filed a discrimination complaint against Kline three months ago.

Newbold's two-week suspension from the White House security office was for failure to supervise, failure to follow instructions and defiance of authority, according to the suspension decision notice obtained by NBC News. Security office chief Crede Bailey first proposed the suspension on Dec. 3, 2018.

Wednesday's notice is signed by Bailey and mentions that in Newbold's 18-year career she has not faced any "prior formal disciplinary action." The document also harshly criticizes Newbold for her "defiance" and notes that Newbold said she would "continue to do what is best for the Executive Office of the President."

In the notice, the chief security officer denies that the suspension has anything to do with Newbold's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

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Newbold's lawyer considers her a whistleblower and said he believes the administrative charges were brought as payback for her decision to file the complaint against Kline.

"It's clearly reprisal for her whistle blowing," said her lawyer Ed Passman. "[It] has no basis in merit whatsoever."

Newbold told NBC News, "I confidently feel that this is completely unwarranted and I am also confident that I have done nothing wrong, every decision I and my team have made have always been in the best interest of the United States," she said. "There is no compromise of personal identifiable information or sensitive information."

Asked about Newbold's suspension, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "We don't comment on personnel issues."

Kline was the subject of an NBC News story last week that revealed he approved Kushner's top-secret clearance after it was rejected by two career White House security specialists. The pair had made the decision to deny Kushner the clearance after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

In her EEOC complaint, Newbold, who has a rare form of dwarfism, accused Kline of discriminating against her because of her height.

Her complaint states that, in December 2017, Kline moved security files to a new location that were too high and out of her reach. "You have people, have them get you the files you need; or you can ask me," he told Newbold, according to her complaint.

Two sources who did not want to be identified confirmed that Kline had moved files out of Newbold's reach.

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