Last Thursday the New York Times reported that Donald Trump ordered officials to give his son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance, prompting both his chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn to document their concerns in “CYA” memos. Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance:
President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.
Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.
The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.
The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.
It also contradicts what Ivanka Trump told ABC News just one month ago. Ivanka Trump says she and Jared Kushner got no special treatment for security clearances:
Ivanka Trump says she and her husband, Jared Kushner, got no special treatment from her father when obtaining their top security clearances.
“There were anonymous leaks about there being issues. But the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero,” Trump told ABC’s Abby Huntsman during an exclusive interview for “The View.”
President Donald Trump pressured his then-chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn to grant his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump a security clearance against their recommendations, three people familiar with the matter told CNN.
The President’s crusade to grant clearances to his daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, rankled West Wing officials.
While Trump has the legal authority to grant clearances, most instances are left up to the White House personnel security office, which determines whether a staffer should be granted one after the FBI has conducted a background check. But after concerns were raised by the personnel office, Trump pushed Kelly and McGahn to make the decision on his daughter and son-in-law’s clearances so it did not appear as if he was tainting the process to favor his family, sources told CNN. After both refused, Trump granted them their security clearances.
The development comes on the heels of Thursday’s New York Times report that President Trump ordered Kelly to grant Kushner a top secret security clearance despite concerns raised by intelligence officials.
The latest revelation also contradicts Ivanka Trump’s denial to ABC News three weeks ago, when she said her father had “no involvement” regarding her or Kushner’s clearances.
There are very serious national security reasons why Jared Kushner should not have any security clearance nor be working in the White House, or anywhere in the government for that matter.
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov, the struggling bank’s CEO, came as Kushner was trying to find investors for a Fifth Avenue office building in Manhattan that is set to be heavily financed by Anbang Insurance Group, a firm with ties to the Chinese government.
In late October 2017, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching some intelligence officials off guard. “The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported at the time.
What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.
On November 4, a week after Kushner returned to the U.S., the crown prince, known in official Washington by his initials MBS, launched what he called an anti-corruption crackdown. The Saudi government arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and imprisoned them in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, which was first reported in English by The Intercept. The Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up; at least one was reportedly tortured.
It is likely that Crown Prince Mohammed would have known who his critics were without Kushner mentioning them, a U.S. government official who declined to be identified pointed out. The crown prince may also have had his own reasons for saying that Kushner shared information with him, even if that wasn’t true. Just the appearance that Kushner did so would send a powerful message to the crown prince’s allies and enemies that his actions were backed by the U.S. government.
One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his pocket,” the source told The Intercept.
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.
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 perceptions of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
Kushner’s SF-86 security clearance form was updated at least 40 times since Kushner first submitted it in March 2017 (as of May 2018). Each update can contain multiple revisions. Whoops! Jared Kushner Made Even More Mistakes in His Federal Filings. Charles Phalen, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, told lawmakers Wednesday he has “never seen that level of mistakes” when asked about numerous omissions in Jared Kushner’s security clearance application. Background check chief has ‘never seen’ mistakes and omissions dat level of Jared Kushner forms.
Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Carl Kline, a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017, overruled career security experts and approved a top-secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival. Trump overruled security officials to demand Jared Kushner get top-secret clearance, report says.
Congressional Democrats have formally requested the suspect security clearance files, including Jared Kushner’s, but are being stonewalled by the Trump White House. (POLITICO counts 30 times the Trump administration has refused or delayed turning over documents to 12 House committees.) White House rebuffs House Democrats’ request regarding security clearances:
The White House has rebuffed House Democrats’ request for documents pertaining to the security clearance process, a move that drastically increases the chances of a subpoena from the House.
In a letter to House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone said the committee request for the information was “without legal support (seriously, Dude! see above), clearly premature, and suggests a breach of the constitutionally required accommodation process.”
Rather, Cipollone said his staff would brief the panel and allow them to view documents related to their investigation. That offer has not been sufficient for committee Democrats in the past.
The standoff comes just days after reports that President Trump directed his then-Chief of Staff John Kelly to give his son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance despite concerns from the intelligence community. The New York Times first reported the news, which was later confirmed by The Washington Post.
Cummings, however, has been asking questions about the security clearance process for months, even garnering bipartisan support for his inquiry last Congress.
In a statement, Cummings rejected the White House lawyer’s assertion that Congress does not have jurisdiction over security clearance matters.
“There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people,” Cummings said. “The White House’s argument defies the constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this committee, and just plain common-sense. The White House security clearance system is broken, and it needs both congressional oversight and legislative reform.”
In response, Cummings (D-Md.) said Cipollone “appears to be arguing that Congress has no authority to examine decisions by the Executive Branch that impact our national security.”
“The White House’s argument defies the constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this committee, and just plain common sense,” the chairman added.
Cummings has accused the White House of stonewalling their demand for information, and of engaging in “repeated, significant, and ongoing abuses of the security clearance system.”
“Cummings said last week that the White House would have one final chance to comply with his requests for documents and witness interviews before issuing subpoenas, and on Tuesday he said he would consult with lawmakers about his next steps.”
UPDATE: In a letter to the Justice Department (pdf), Congressmen Ted Lieu and Don Beyer referred Jared Kushner’s actions as a criminal complaint:
“We are deeply disturbed by recent reports that President Trump ordered his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, to grant Jared Kushner a security clearance, overruling intelligence officials who raised concerns about the clear national security risks of doing so. Taken together with previous reports that Mr. Kushner omitted contacts with more than one hundred foreign persons on his clearance forms — including the Russian Ambassador — we request that the Department of Justice open an immediate investigation to determine if Mr. Kushner is criminally liable for his false statements.”
UPDATE 3/8/19: Axios reports “the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents.” Scoop: White House leak to House Dems on Jared and Ivanka’s clearances:
[T]the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances.
The documents leaked to the Oversight Committee provide detailed information on the timeline for how Kushner’s and Trump’s security clearances were approved and who the people were involved in processing and the final decision.
“The Trump administration’s problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators.”