Last week, the Department of Justice informed the White House that there were substantial issues related to Jared Kushner that still needed to be investigated and would significantly delay a recommendation on whether he should receive a permanent security clearance. White House Told Kushner’s Security Clearance Will Be Delayed:
The White House was not told what the issues were involving Mr. Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. But the notification led White House lawyers and aides to believe that they were more problematic than the complexity of his finances and his initial failure to disclose contacts with foreign leaders — the reasons Mr. Kushner’s lawyers have said are holding up the process, the two people said.
An interim clearance has given him access to closely guarded information, including the presidential daily brief, the intelligence summary Mr. Trump receives every day. The issue took on added urgency after the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, issued a sweeping review of interim clearances in response to the disclosure that the White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, had his permanent security clearance delayed for a year because of spousal abuse allegations.
In a five-page memo to the White House staff, Mr. Kelly said that he would cut off high-level access to many of the aides who had been unable to get a permanent clearance.
The new details about Mr. Kushner’s security clearance, first reported by The Washington Post, emerged hours after Mr. Trump said on Friday that he would leave it up to Mr. Kelly to decide whether Mr. Kushner could continue to hold his interim clearance.
“I will let General Kelly make that decision, and he’s going to do what’s right for the country,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia. “I have no doubt he will make the right decision.”
Pointing to Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine, Mr. Trump said: “General Kelly respects Jared a lot. I will let the general, who’s right here, make that call.”
General Kelly made his decision today. Kushner loses access to top-secret intelligence:
Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.
Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
The SCI acronym stands for sensitive compartmented information, a category of information that comes from sensitive intelligence sources and must be walled off.
The memo was not signed by chief of staff John Kelly, but it comes as the retired Marine general and other top White House aides are grappling with the fallout of a scandal involving former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, which revealed that dozens of White House aides had yet to receive permanent clearances but nonetheless had access to some of the country’s deepest secrets.
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Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement that Kushner “has done more than what is expected of him in this process.”
Lowell added that the changes would “not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president.”
Friday’s decision is the first change to the clearance process instituted in the wake of the Porter debacle that will directly affect Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to Trump and has until now had access to the president’s daily brief, the most highly-classified document that Trump sees.
“He cannot see the PDB, not a chance,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security law and clearances. “He no longer has access to a range of intelligence information that ordinarily someone in his position and somebody with his responsibilities would normally be privy to in order to perform their functions.”
Moss said Kushner and others will be debriefed by officials in the White House security office, an event scheduled to take place Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. “They’re going to give him a list, ‘Here’s what you’ve been debriefed from, you’ve been debriefed from this program and that compartment, you no longer have any access to it, and any breach of that would be a serious security violation and a possible criminal issue.’”
And what are the “substantial issues related to Jared Kushner” so that he cannot qualify for a Top Secret/SCI-level security clearance after more than a year? Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage:
Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.
Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.
It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.
H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perception of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
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They could also have legal implications. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has asked people about the protocols Kushner used when he set up conversations with foreign leaders, according to a former U.S. official.
Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel, said one former White House official.
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White House officials said McMaster was taken aback by some of Kushner’s foreign contacts.
“When he learned about it, it surprised him,” one official said. “He thought that was weird…It was an unusual thing. I don’t know that any White House has done it this way before.”
The official said that McMaster was “not concerned but wanted an explanation. It seemed unusual to him.”
In the months since, McMaster and Kushner have worked to coordinate so that the National Security Council is aware of Kushner’s contacts with foreign officials and so Kushner has access to the council’s country experts to prepare for meetings.
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Kushner came to his position with an unusually complex set of business holdings and a family company facing significant debt issues.
A Mexican diplomatic source said that Kushner “has remained strictly professional” in his dealings with the country, “with both sides looking after their interests but trying to find common ground.”
Officials from the UAE identified Kushner as early as the spring of 2017 as particularly manipulable because of his family’s search for investors in their real estate company, current and former officials said.
Officials at the embassies of China, Israel and the UAE did not respond to requests for comment.
Kushner’s lack of a final security clearance has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks. He had an interim clearance that gives him access to information at the top-secret level, as well as more highly classified information, such as the president’s daily intelligence briefing. But the application for his final clearance dragged on for more than a year. The downgrading of his interim clearance from top secret to secret was first reported by Politico.
Kushner has repeatedly amended his SF-86 form detailing his contacts with foreign persons. Not fully disclosing foreign contacts ordinarily would result in a clearance being denied, experts said.
Actually, it normally results in being shown the door, and if you lied on your SF-86 form, it results in your being prosecuted. Matthew Rozsa at Salon asks the right question: People go to jail for lying on security clearance forms. Why hasn’t Jared Kushner?
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has seemingly benefited from a double-standard when it comes to the number of errors he has made on his security clearance questionnaire. And it looks like Fox News host Shepard Smith may be the only anchor on the pro-Trump network that’s taking this potential ethical dilemma seriously.
“There’s a Kushner problem at the White House,” Smith announced Wednesday. And, again the next day, he continued to raise red flags to Fox News viewers.
“Jared Kushner submitted his application – his ‘SF-86’ as they call it – and did not include 100 contacts with foreigners, and then later had to go back and include them. But then later he did not include the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer and the Russian translator. He didn’t include that. So that was another amendment to this thing,” Smith told his viewers on Thursday. “And that took this past June.”
Smith also asked his guest, Alayna Treene of Axios, about her thoughts on the ostensibly lax approach being applied to Kushner.
“An omission for most people, when you fill out as ‘SF-86,’ can be a crime punishable by prison. Not in this case, apparently, but it can be, right?” Smith asked Treene.
“Right. No, exactly. I think that what happened here was there’s a lot that had to be revised, sent back,” Treene told Smith.
As of October, Kushner had been forced to submit four addenda containing more than 100 omissions and errors on his security clearance questionnaire, according to CNN. When Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., brought this matter to the attention of Charles Phalen that month, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau within the Office of Personnel Management, he asked whether it was normal for someone to maintain their security clearance after so many errors had been found.
While Phalen could not speak to all security clearance applications, he conceded that he had “never seen that level of mistakes” himself.
Although Kushner is operating with an interim security clearance, he has not been able to secure a full top-level security clearance, in part due to the ongoing probe lead by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to CNN. As part of his investigation, Mueller is reviewing Kushner’s alleged contacts — financial or otherwise — with Russians and other foreigners, and it is unlikely he would be cleared during that time.
If Kushner lied on his SF-86, he should be prosecuted, not downgraded and compartmentalized from highly classified intelligence. Don’t coddle this punk in what is a gross example of nepotism.