Jared Kushner loses top-secret clearance in White House crackdown
Washington — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, can no longer attend some meetings of the National Security Council, or see the highly classified President’s Daily Brief or war-related intelligence, after losing his top-secret security clearance as part of a broader White House crackdown, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Kushner’s reduced access raises questions about how it will affect his role as Trump’s main Middle East peace negotiator, although a spokesman insisted nothing has changed in how Kushner will be able to fulfill his multiple roles.
Kushner is among several White House aides still awaiting the outcome of FBI background checks who lost interim clearances that granted them access to the highly sensitive information they previously could review, under a new policy backed by White House chief of staff John Kelly.
The changes were laid out in a new memo, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The new policy means Kushner is also losing access to some files containing intelligence on foreign leaders and diplomats that can be used to gain an advantage in negotiations, according to a second person, who is familiar with the clearance process.
In an earlier memo released on February 16, Kelly said the administration must "do better" in its handling of security clearances.
Kelly said he would discontinue all "Top Secret or SCI-level interim clearances" for people who have ongoing investigations stretching back to June 1 2017, using an acronym for "Sensitive Compartmented Information".
While the new policy was set to take effect on February 23, White House officials have declined to say who would be affected.
In a statement last week, Kelly did not address whether Kushner’s security clearance would be revoked but said he had "full confidence" in his ability to continue his foreign policy work.
Trump said at a news conference last week that "I will let Gen Kelly make that decision. I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision."
The changes, reported on Tuesday by Politico, come as the White House has faced a barrage of criticism.
The House oversight committee opened an investigation this month into the administration’s handling of security clearances after former staff secretary Rob Porter was permitted to keep his for months after the FBI said it had provided the White House a report including allegations of domestic violence from his two ex-wives.
Senate judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley said on Tuesday that he wanted answers from the White House and the FBI about reports that dozens of top officials still lacked a full security clearance, and that some officials like Kushner had access to the highly classified President’s Daily Brief prepared by intelligence agencies.
In a joint letter with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, Grassley asked White House counsel Don McGahn and FBI director Christopher Wray for details by March 1 on the number of people given interim clearances and what procedures govern people with interim clearances, including whether they have access to the President’s Daily Brief.
"Recent reports reveal that officials at the highest levels of government may be operating with only interim security clearances, either because of delays in the clearance-granting process or because information revealed during that process is not acted on in a timely and appropriate fashion," they wrote.
"If true, this raises significant concerns that ineligible individuals, who hold positions of public trust, may have access to sensitive or classified information."
The senators also want details on the process and timeline for adjudicating Porter’s security clearance process, including interactions between the White House and the FBI last year. Porter resigned after reports surfaced that his two ex-wives had accused him of domestic abuse.
Wray told Congress the FBI had provided officials with the results of Porter’s background investigation as early as July, contradicting the White House’s timeline.
Kushner is not named in the legislators’ letter, but has been a focus of Democrats for months, with some questioning why he should have access to classified information given repeated errors and omissions in his disclosure forms and an incomplete background check.
The White House was warned last summer that some issue with Kushner’s clearance was holding it up, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for Kushner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no concern had been raised with Kushner about his security clearance and the White House’s new security clearance policy did not affect Kushner’s ability to do his job.
His assignments by Trump include leading efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, overhauling prison sentencing, and technology innovations.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment on Monday and Tuesday on the security clearance status of any administration employees.
Grassley and Blumenthal also said they wanted answers on the number of congressional staff with interim clearances.