Kushner security clearance is downgraded

Jared Kushner, who has worn dueling hats for more than a year as President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-l...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 9:55 AM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 9:55 AM

Jared Kushner, who has worn dueling hats for more than a year as President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, has been stripped of his access to the nation's top secrets, officials said Tuesday after his security clearance was downgraded.

Kushner, along with other White House officials who had been operating on interim clearances, had their access altered last week after chief of staff John Kelly stipulated new changes to the security clearance system.

Aides who previously operated on "top secret/sensitive compartmented information" interim clearances saw their access changed to "secret," a classification for less sensitive material. The lesser "secret" clearance allows access to far fewer government secrets. It would prevent Kushner from accessing the Presidential Daily Brief, the collection of top secret material prepared for the commander in chief every day.

Dozens of White House officials have operated on interim clearances since Trump took office more than a year ago. Kelly had grown frustrated with the high number of aides without permanent access and has worked to shrink the number of temporary clearances. He issued a memo last week spelling out changes to the system, which gained new scrutiny after domestic abuse allegations against former aide Rob Porter surfaced this month.

In the February 16 memo, Kelly stated that White House officials who have been operating on interim clearances since last June would have their temporary clearances discontinued. That included Kushner, who has taken on a wide portfolio as senior adviser, including sensitive foreign policy matters. Asked on Friday whether he would grant Kushner an exemption from the new mandate, Trump said it would be Kelly's decision.

The White House has refused to detail the status of Kushner's clearance. In a statement, Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell wrote: "Mr. Kushner has done more than what is expected of him in this process."

"Those involved in the process again have confirmed that there are dozens of people at Mr. Kushner's level whose process is delayed," Lowell wrote. "No concerns were raised about Mr. Kushner's application. As General Kelly himself said, the new clearance policy will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President."

Kushner is accepting the decision about his security clearance and "will not ask for special permission" from the President, one person familiar with the situation says.

Politico first reported the security clearance downgrade. At the White House on Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said Kushner's work would continue apace.

"He is a valued member of the team and will continue to do the important work he has been doing since he started in the administration," Sanders said.

Kusher-Kelly rift

White House officials have been working over the past week to identify a way for Kushner to continue pursuing his portfolio of issues -- including on the Middle East and China -- that would avoid forcing Trump to personally intervene. Officials have expressed worry that Trump's personal involvement could create problems within the West Wing and with Kelly.

The security clearance issue has caused a rift between Kushner and Kelly, multiple source familiar with the matter say. The President is aware of the tensions between the two men over the matter, a person familiar with his thinking said.

Republican sources close to the White House said the clearance downgrade could undercut Kushner's ability to influence policy decision-making in the West Wing. Without a top-level clearance, Kushner will be unable to attend meetings where the most sensitive national secrets are discussed.

It's not clear how long the diminished security clearance will last. The FBI is expected to wrap up Kushner's background check within a month, a person familiar with the situation said, adding that the FBI would hand the findings to the White House for it to make the ultimate decision on Kushner's clearance.

A "surge" of FBI agents have been tasked with processing a backlog of background investigations into Trump administration officials seeking security clearances, law enforcement sources said. Agents are "churning and burning" to complete the required checks, one official with the matter said. "We're trying to help the process ASAP."

Meanwhile, White House officials say they've noticed an uptick in the pace of top secret security clearance decisions coming from the White House Personnel Security office. That's the department tasked with taking the FBI background check and determining whether a clearance should be granted.

One law enforcement source said agents in two Washington-based squads tasked with completing background checks are "inundated" with "thousands of people" across the government who still require background investigations before receiving permanent security clearances.

"We thought we had an adequate number of individuals assigned. We realized we need to up our ante and get this off our plate," the official said. "It's an arduous process that they go through. You can only do so much in 24 hours."

After-action

In the February 16 memo, Kelly wrote that in the wake of the Porter scandal he "convened a number of after-action meetings," including with senior FBI leadership, to discuss the security clearance process.

"They have offered to assist us with reviewing and improving our protocols and we have accepted their assistance," Kelly wrote.

He noted that even before the Porter scandal he had directed the Personnel Security office to make "better use of existing staff" and hire "additional staff."

Before Kelly issued his memo, White House and Justice Department officials convened a conference call to see whether some of the outstanding background check investigations for officials on interim clearances could be completed quickly. That included Kushner, according to a person familiar with the call. In his memo, Kelly stated that all interim clearances would be discontinued in a week's time.

A separate conversation took place last week between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and White House counsel Don McGahn about Kushner's clearance. Rosenstein explained on the call the clearance process for Kushner was still ongoing, according to a source familiar with the matter.

"The deputy attorney general has not referenced to the White House any specific concerns relating to this individual's security clearance process," Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1084488

Reported Deaths: 17386
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1425562217
Lake705171220
Allen64347862
Hamilton49481481
St. Joseph48135639
Elkhart39011536
Vanderburgh33874494
Tippecanoe29863271
Johnson26876463
Hendricks25548379
Porter24683380
Madison20440444
Clark19785275
Vigo18609308
LaPorte16638260
Monroe16237217
Delaware16230286
Howard16181310
Kosciusko13763162
Hancock12644184
Bartholomew12544188
Warrick11889189
Wayne11794264
Floyd11792225
Grant11484233
Morgan10134188
Boone9576120
Noble8921121
Henry8917163
Marshall8792146
Dearborn875798
Dubois8673138
Shelby7958127
Cass7907126
Lawrence7861182
DeKalb7416106
Jackson738093
Huntington7280107
Gibson6922118
Montgomery6830122
Harrison680696
Knox6779113
Steuben641185
Miami6384106
Whitley631160
Putnam626582
Clinton614176
Wabash5958108
Jasper591991
Jefferson5617102
Ripley540892
Adams527881
Daviess4964116
Scott475978
Wells462998
White459967
Greene458399
Clay452162
Decatur4491109
Jennings434666
Fayette429094
LaGrange413890
Posey398344
Washington380654
Randolph3770107
Fountain364962
Spencer353446
Fulton352270
Starke343672
Sullivan342454
Owen341676
Orange320270
Jay315450
Rush293332
Carroll287037
Franklin283544
Perry281453
Vermillion277557
Parke244930
Tipton244664
Pike241744
Blackford213944
Pulaski203158
Newton176552
Brown169850
Crawford167129
Benton160517
Martin149219
Switzerland143712
Warren131416
Union115416
Ohio90513
Unassigned0581

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1673496

Reported Deaths: 26483
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1757641826
Cuyahoga1629012636
Hamilton1118741528
Montgomery791421387
Summit697231199
Lucas615331017
Butler55597803
Stark521611170
Lorain40661639
Warren35239412
Mahoning34821769
Lake31171493
Clermont30541362
Delaware26553182
Trumbull26366611
Licking26095335
Medina25072351
Fairfield24063287
Greene23957369
Clark21542387
Portage20538280
Richland20465336
Wood19524246
Allen18427320
Miami16950348
Columbiana16385331
Muskingum16346206
Wayne15351304
Tuscarawas14018357
Marion12978194
Erie12350198
Ashtabula12171225
Scioto12166182
Pickaway12009151
Ross11417223
Hancock11151173
Geauga10572174
Lawrence10433171
Belmont10200231
Huron9545155
Jefferson9425225
Union933375
Sandusky8981166
Seneca8639156
Knox8591169
Washington8578156
Athens825096
Darke8215179
Ashland7777147
Auglaize7695115
Shelby7302132
Defiance7174114
Brown7015115
Crawford7010150
Fulton6953111
Logan6818108
Mercer679397
Guernsey677983
Highland6591117
Madison639289
Clinton6361106
Williams623498
Preble6153139
Putnam6054120
Jackson569496
Champaign564786
Perry557179
Coshocton5525103
Ottawa549599
Morrow504464
Fayette481270
Hardin475399
Gallia460278
Pike457876
Van Wert451591
Adams4495109
Henry422776
Hocking398093
Holmes3917137
Wyandot366673
Carroll348978
Paulding317449
Meigs300957
Monroe230860
Noble216147
Morgan208938
Harrison204052
Vinton182037
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 25°
Angola
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Huntington
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Decatur
Mostly Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 25°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 23°
The chilly temperatures and clouds are sticking around Monday with a brief warm up midweek.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events