Earlier this week, Democrats opened an investigation of the White House security clearance process:
House Democrats are opening an investigation of the Trump White House’s security clearance practices and what they are calling “grave breaches” of procedure that allowed potentially compromised people to access the country’s most sensitive secrets.
The investigation, announced Wednesday by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), seeks both to expose why the White House allowed certain people with security clearance issues to continue to access sensitive information and to close those loopholes.
The panel also plans to challenge administration officials on why they have not been more responsive to congressional requests regarding the security clearance process, as required by law.
Among the people whose cases the panel plans to scrutinize are former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials; Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who did not disclose several contacts with foreign officials on his security clearance forms; and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was accused of spousal abuse.
In a Wednesday letter to White House lawyer Pat Cipolline, Cummings reminded him that the White House had already acknowledged it needed to make adjustments.
“Last year, General John Kelly, President Trump’s Chief of Staff at the time, conceded that there are major ‘shortcomings’ with the White House’s security clearance process. He warned that the White House ‘should — and in the future, must — do better,’ ” Cummings wrote, adding: “I agree.”
The investigation will focus not just on Trump’s time in the White House, but also on actions of his transition team, members of which also handled sensitive information with questionable clearances. Vice President Pence, who was chair of the transition team, received Cummings’ letter, as did the FBI, the State Department and the National Rifle Association.
On Thursday, NBC News reported that Officials rejected Jared Kushner for top secret security clearance, but were overruled:
Jared Kushner’s application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
Remember that this Trump princeling sought a secret back channel to communicate with the Kremlin. Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin:
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 Sergey 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.
The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline 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.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.
Kushner’s FBI background check identified questions about his family’s business, his foreign contacts, his foreign travel and meetings he had during the campaign, the sources said, declining to be more specific.
Kushner updated his security clearance application at least 40 times since he first submitted it in March 2017. Each update can contain multiple revisions. Whoops! Jared Kushner Made Even More Mistakes in His Federal Filings. Which raises the obvious question: People go to jail for lying on security clearance forms. Why hasn’t Jared Kushner? No one gets this kind of special treatment.
The White House office only determines eligibility for secret and top-secret clearances. As a very senior official, Kushner was seeking an even higher designation that would grant him access to what is known as “sensitive compartmented information,” or SCI. That material makes up the government’s most sensitive secrets, including transcripts of intercepted foreign communications, CIA source reporting and other intelligence seemingly important for Kushner, whose job portfolio covers the Mideast and Mexico.
The CIA is the agency that decides whether to grant SCI clearance to senior White House officials after conducting a further background check.
After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top-secret clearance, Kushner’s file then went to the CIA for a ruling on SCI.
After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions balked, two of the people familiar with the matter said. One called over to the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top-secret clearance, the sources said. Top-secret information is defined as material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries.
The sources say the CIA has not granted Kushner clearance to review SCI material. That would mean Kushner lacks access to key intelligence unless President Donald Trump decides to override the rules, which is the president’s’ prerogative. The Washington Post reported in July 2018 that Kushner was not given an “SCI” clearance. CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett said, “The CIA does not comment on individual security clearances.”
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Rep. Elijah Cummings, D.-Md., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said in a statement that the NBC News report raised questions he hopes to answer as part of his investigation, announced this week, into how the Trump administration has handled security clearances.
“The system is supposed to be a nonpartisan determination of an individual’s fitness to hold a clearance, not an ad hoc approach that overrules career experts to give the president’s family members access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” he told NBC News.
“What you are reporting is what all of us feared,” said Brad Moss, a lawyer who represents persons seeking security clearances. “The normal line adjudicators looked at the FBI report … saw the foreign influence concerns, but were overruled by the quasi-political supervisor.”
The sources said they did not know whether Kline was in communication with senior political White House officials. They say he overruled career bureaucrats at least 30 times, granting top-secret clearances to officials in the Executive Office of the President or the White House after adjudicators working for him recommended against doing so.
The reasons for denying a clearance can include debts, a criminal past or questions about foreign entanglements. Anything in a person’s background that could make them vulnerable to blackmail can be a factor.
Kushner’s application followed the normal path for security clearance. It passed a “suitability review” in the White House and then went to the FBI for a background investigation.
Following the FBI investigation, the case went back to the White House office of personnel security, where a career adjudicator reviewed the FBI information, including questions about foreign influence and foreign business entanglements, the sources said.
The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, reported last February that officials in at least four countries had privately discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.
Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage, according to the current and former officials, were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the Post reported.
On the basis of potential foreign influence, the adjudicator deemed Kushner’s application “unfavorable” and handed it to a supervisor.
The supervisor agreed with the “unfavorable” determination and gave it to Kline, the head of the office at the time, who overruled the “unfavorable” determination and approved Kushner for “top secret” security clearance, the sources said.
“No one else gets that kind of treatment,” Moss said. “My clients would get body slammed if they did that.”
Sources also told NBC News career employees of the White House office disagreed with other steps Kline took, including ceasing credit checks on security clearance applicants. The sources said Kline cited a data breach at the credit reporting firm Equifax.
There are at least 30 people working in the executive branch who should not have security clearances. Well, 31 if you count President Trump. Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say; Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery.
For all we know, the Trump crime family has populated the executive branch with Russian moles who are providing Vladimir Putin with a direct line of access to America’s most sensitive intelligence secrets.
The Trump crime family has to go. Now.