We just can’t seem to put the saga of Jared Kushner and his security clearance to bed. According to the New York Times, former White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly is alleged to have been ordered by the President to fix the multi-month processing of Kushner’s clearance, which was granted in May 2018.
Just a few weeks ago it was alleged the CIA had opted not to allow Kushner to be read into their Special Compartmented Information, even though the White House personnel security office had adjudicated and granted a Top Secret security clearance for Kushner. Eyebrows were raised.
Then it was just over a year ago that we saw John Kelly perform an overhaul within the White House which effectively put the kibosh on long term provisional clearances, of which Kushner’s was but one.
Now we have the NYT article alleging direct involvement of the President and John Kelly, writing memos concerning Kushner’s clearance in February 2016.
What we don’t know is if these John Kelly memos are new news, or if they are a rehash of those memos and the organization of a working group involving the FBI and others, which is designed to keep the White House Chief of Staff informed of the status and/or problems involving the suitability of a candidate.
The allegation the President inserted himself into the process is totally credible, as he stated in 2016 following the election that his daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, were among his most trusted advisors. This runs 100 percent counter to what his then Chief of Staff is alleged to have said.
We have commented in the past about the depth of Kushner’s foreign connection, both through family ties, as well as business. The magnitude of the connections make adjudication difficult, as the depth of knowledge gleaned during the background investigation will be uneven across the international spectrum.
What’s next with Jared Kushner and his Clearance?
The fact that Kushner continues to enjoy the trust of the President and access to classified materials in the conduct of his advisory duties, continues to give some members of congress heartburn.
For this reason, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has thrown down the gauntlet of “investigation” into the White House security clearance process. A process which had been most recently overhauled by John Kelly. Cummings noted, “The Committee expects full compliance with its requests as soon as possible, or it may become necessary to consider alternative means to compel compliance.”
Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in his statement on 28 February 28 that both his Committee and the House Oversight Committee will continue to investigate the White House’s security clearance process. Schiff said, “The revelation that President Trump personally intervened to overrule White House security officials and the Intelligence Community to grant a Top Secret security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest indicator of the President’s utter disregard for our national security and for the men and women who sacrifice so much every day to keep us safe. There is no nepotism exception for background investigations.”
For now, Jared Kushner, has a top secret security clearance and the cognizant security authority at the White House has not revoked or suspended the clearance. What this issue really displays is how – despite congress’ chagrin – the executive branch holds the authority when it comes to who does and does not get a security clearance. Congress can showboat, and may assist in bringing about policy changes to introduce more transparency to the process. What they can’t do is strip Kushner – or anyone else the executive branch decides to grant eligibility – of that access.