Sources: Mueller probe stymies Kushner security clearance

Jared Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance in part because of special counsel Robert Mueller's...

Posted: Feb 23, 2018 10:44 AM
Updated: Feb 23, 2018 10:44 AM

Jared Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance in part because of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, is unlikely to obtain the full clearance as long as the special counsel's probe is ongoing, one of the sources said.

Kushner's application for a top-level security clearance has been held up for over a year in part because it cannot be completed while the special counsel's team continues to probe Kushner's contacts with Russians and his financial dealings with foreigners, the sources said. During that time, Kushner has been able to access the government's most sensitive secrets thanks to an interim security clearance. But that access could soon be cut off -- unless Trump steps in with a waiver.

There is no indication that Mueller is close to wrapping up his investigation, and an impending crackdown by White House chief of staff John Kelly aimed at restricting access to classified information for those with long-pending interim clearances is expected to nix or downgrade Kushner's interim security clearance. The combination of factors could leave Kushner without a security clearance for months to come, even as he tackles sensitive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States' relationship with Mexico.

The situation is especially complicated for Kushner because the FBI isn't sharing information with the White House that would typically be relevant in a background investigation for security clearance. That's because sharing such information could compromise the special counsel's probe.

Kelly memo

Prompted by the latest scandal engulfing the West Wing -- domestic abuse allegations against a senior White House aide with a yearlong top-level interim security clearance -- Kelly released a five-page memo last Friday directing aides to "discontinue" interim security clearances for individuals whose security clearance applications have been pending since June 1 or earlier. He also ordered access to highly classified information be limited for the remaining aides with interim clearances.

The White House has declined to say how many officials will be affected by the measure. White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said during Thursday's briefing that he "can't get into specifics regarding individuals' security clearances or numbers."

Kushner's attorney has acknowledged that Kushner's security clearance application has yet to be approved and said "my inquiries to those involved again have confirmed that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner's level whose process is delayed."

But question marks still loom over the future of Kushner's access to classified information.

The White House has declined to confirm whether Kushner's clearance would be revoked on Friday, with Kelly saying only that he has "full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio."

Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, also declined to elaborate when pressed by CNN, saying only via a statement that the new policy "will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President."

Still, Kelly's memo signals Kushner would be swept up in the interim security clearance revocation given that the FBI began its background check investigation into the senior aide prior to June 1.

"Effective one week from today, discontinue any Top Secret or SCI-level interim clearances for individuals whose investigations or adjudications have been pending since June 1, 2017 or before," Kelly wrote in the memo.

Bypassing clearance process

Still, Kushner's security clearance woes could be swept away by his father-in-law, who as president can bypass the clearance process and grant anyone access to classified information. There is no known precedent for a president to make such a decision for anyone seeking a security clearance, according to security experts.

The fate of Kushner's security clearance was not the only uncertainty that hung in the White House in the wake of Kelly's memo last week.

The memo -- which Kelly addressed to only three top aides -- came as a surprise to most White House officials, who learned of Kelly's plans through media reports, two White House officials told CNN.

Combined with the initial surprise, Kelly's memo has fueled uncertainty in the West Wing about how the memo's directives will impact daily operations. Less than 48 hours before the key directive about interim clearances was set to take effect, the officials said they and their colleagues had yet to receive any additional guidance on the memo's implementation.

Beyond the clean-cut revocation of interim security clearances for those with applications pending since June 1 or prior, White House officials have fretted over how Kelly plans to "limit access to certain highly classified information for those individuals working with interim clearance status," as laid out in the memo. It remains unclear how Kelly will limit access to highly classified information.

Other White House officials

It's also not clear whether other White House officials whose actions have been scrutinized by Mueller have been unable to get a decision on their security clearance applications.

White House communications director Hope Hicks, whose role in drafting a misleading statement about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower has drawn Mueller's scrutiny, obtained a full Top Secret and sensitive compartmented information, or SCI, security clearances -- the highest levels of access -- in November or earlier, according to information obtained by CNN from a US government official. Unlike Hicks, Kushner has drawn Mueller's interest over his interactions with foreign officials, including Russians, and for his financial dealings with foreigners during the transition.

Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents security clearance applicants, said ongoing criminal investigations can derail security clearance applications, even if the applicant is not a target of the investigation.

"I have definitely had cases over the years where there was a parallel criminal investigation ... that was happening at the same time as there was a clearance investigation," Zaid said. "The security adjudicators would delay rendering a decision pending some outcome of the criminal case at least to the extent that it applies to that individual."

As of November, White House counsel Don McGahn -- who has also been interviewed by Mueller's team -- had received a Top Secret clearance, but was still working off interim access to SCI.

More than 100 White House officials were still working on interim clearances in November, according to the information provided to CNN. But a White House official with knowledge of the matter said a slew of officials saw their clearances approved in late December and early January.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 664446

Reported Deaths: 12663
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion909511650
Lake48568884
Allen36004640
Hamilton32182398
St. Joseph30166513
Elkhart25453419
Vanderburgh21300382
Tippecanoe20143203
Johnson16407361
Porter16042276
Hendricks15877300
Clark12018181
Madison11776319
Vigo11660231
Monroe10379163
Delaware9870179
LaPorte9802198
Howard9083199
Kosciusko8582111
Bartholomew7488147
Warrick7438151
Hancock7428133
Floyd7243170
Wayne6648192
Grant6446157
Boone610989
Morgan6106126
Dubois5925112
Dearborn549969
Cass547299
Marshall5439105
Henry542594
Noble510578
Jackson465167
Shelby461991
Lawrence4193113
Harrison402564
Gibson402083
Clinton396753
Montgomery389683
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350237
Huntington347377
Steuben339555
Wabash332676
Putnam331260
Ripley327862
Adams324749
Jasper318143
White297952
Jefferson295874
Daviess285696
Fayette272156
Decatur271188
Greene262080
Posey261431
Wells258675
Scott251350
LaGrange241870
Clay241444
Randolph225676
Spencer218930
Jennings216344
Washington212827
Sullivan203639
Fountain202142
Starke189051
Owen183253
Fulton179837
Jay178528
Carroll176619
Perry173736
Orange171250
Rush165322
Vermillion161442
Franklin159635
Tipton148441
Parke140016
Pike128233
Blackford120727
Pulaski107344
Newton96632
Brown95140
Benton92213
Crawford91713
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54011
Unassigned0432

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 974480

Reported Deaths: 16750
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1125851214
Cuyahoga964441832
Hamilton736841034
Montgomery47424903
Summit40474802
Butler35678505
Lucas35588685
Stark29495803
Warren22510271
Lorain22111414
Mahoning19532537
Lake18471318
Clermont18459201
Delaware16537116
Licking15037189
Fairfield14587180
Trumbull14381413
Greene13626218
Medina13448226
Clark12319248
Wood11604163
Portage11078164
Allen10804216
Richland10334183
Miami10048189
Muskingum8204112
Columbiana8160200
Pickaway8079107
Tuscarawas8063227
Marion8006125
Wayne7898193
Erie6925140
Ross6161128
Geauga6097136
Hancock6013116
Ashtabula5993152
Scioto597780
Lawrence527218
Union515237
Darke5040114
Belmont497659
Huron4838107
Jefferson4814107
Sandusky4785108
Seneca4709107
Washington470991
Athens465447
Mercer459180
Auglaize456480
Shelby442479
Knox4045101
Putnam400090
Madison394253
Ashland381381
Fulton381258
Defiance372983
Brown372244
Crawford359096
Logan356072
Preble353678
Clinton341152
Highland328649
Ottawa324869
Williams302962
Jackson290745
Champaign289249
Guernsey288444
Perry270447
Fayette269441
Morrow260934
Henry247058
Hardin246558
Holmes243493
Coshocton238054
Van Wert230154
Gallia223131
Adams217436
Pike216026
Wyandot211747
Hocking194754
Carroll181641
Paulding160530
Meigs135930
Noble129333
Monroe116927
Morgan101119
Harrison100724
Vinton76613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 29°
Angola
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 26°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 30°
Fort Wayne
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 29°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 22°
Sunny & Seasonal Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events