Top Democrats Seek Information on Bolton’s Security Clearance After Revelation That He Worked With Russian Citizen Now Exposed as Spy

Aug 20, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Aug. 20, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly requesting documents relating to whether National Security Advisor John Bolton reported his previous work with Maria Butina, a Russian citizen now exposed as a spy.

“We are writing regarding recent reports that National Security Advisor John Bolton, in his former capacity as a top official with the National Rifle Association (NRA), worked directly with a Russian citizen who has now been charged by federal prosecutors with infiltrating that organization and spying against the United States for years,” the Ranking Members wrote.

Given the alarming and unprecedented nature of these revelations—and the high-level position of trust Mr. Bolton now holds—we request that you produce documents relating to whether Mr. Bolton reported his previous work with this alleged Russian spy on his security clearance forms or other White House vetting materials prior to President Trump appointing him to his current position,” they wrote.

The Oversight Committee has previously investigated widespread failures by the Trump White House to adequately vet top national security officials for their Russian contacts, including Bolton’s predecessor, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  President Trump failed to suspend Flynn’s security clearance for several weeks after the Department of Justice informed the White House that Flynn was under criminal investigation for lying about his secret communications with the Russian Ambassador.  Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his secret communications.

On July 16, 2018, Maria Butina was arrested for acting as a Russian agent inside the United States.  According to the Department of Justice, Butina worked to “arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics, including an organization promoting gun rights, for the purpose of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation.”

Butina reportedly acted as an agent of Alexander Torshin, a “lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia.”  According to an affidavit by an FBI agent, Butina and Torshin “planned to advance Moscow’s long-term strategic objectives in the United States, in part, by establishing relationships with American political organizations, including the GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION [the NRA].”

In 2013, Bolton agreed to participate by video at a roundtable forum on gun rights “organized by Ms. Butina.”  This roundtable reportedly was sponsored by a Russian organization known as Right to Bear Arms, and Bolton reportedly participated at the request of then-NRA President David Keene.  Keane had appointed Bolton to lead the NRA’s Subcommittee on International Affairs in 2011.  In his video, Bolton expressed support for amending the Russian constitution to include broader gun rights and offered the Russian people “encouragement as you consider embracing that freedom.” 

In order to obtain access to classified information, government employees must submit Standard Form 86 (SF-86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions.  The SF-86 explains:  “All questions on this form must be answered completely and truthfully.”  In addition, it warns applicants that “The U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment.”

Applicants must provide a wide range of information about their contacts with foreign citizens, foreign business and professional activities, foreign government contacts, and any advice they provided or consultancy arrangements they had with foreign entities. 

Applicants also typically provide additional information directly to the Executive Office of the President as part of their applications for employment at the White House.

The Ranking Members requested several categories of documents and information provided by Bolton on his security clearance forms and other White House vetting materials.

Click here to read today’s letter.

115th Congress