Trump's son-in-law faces Kelly over new restrictions on insider information

Desiree Steele
February 24, 2018

President Donald Trump said on Friday he will leave it to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to settle a security clearance dispute involving son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner, but left little doubt he wants the case settled in a way that allows Kushner to keep his job. General Kelly will make that call. If Kelly revokes Kushner's clearance, he will not have access to some of the classified information contained in the presidential briefing. Two people said the deputy attorney general told McGahn the Justice Department had obtained important new information, suggesting it could be an obstacle to his clearance process. The official said many staffers holding interim top secret or SCI clearances would lose them - but most don't need them for their day-to-day jobs.

According to a report from The Washington Post, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spoke to White House general counsel Donald McGahn about the development, which he said required further investigation. "Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the president's agenda".

"To do this particular job without a security clearance is extraordinarily hard; just by definition, you're coming into contact with classified information every single day, and much of the material the U.S. team generates is classified material", one former senior USA official told The Jerusalem Post.

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.

But "the president has the authority to do whatever he chooses in terms of security - it is a presidential decision in the end", Dershowitz said.

Security clearance determinations are conducted by the White House Personnel Security Office, based on background checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Kelly also wrote that he would be curtailing "access to certain highly classified information for those individuals working with interim clearance status" unless he will grant 'only in the most compelling circumstances'.

Kushner is unlikely to obtain the full clearance as long as the special counsel's probe is ongoing, one of the sources said. Much, but not all, of Kushner's work on the two issues singled out by Kelly are handled at those lower levels, the official said.

As someone who meets regularly with foreign officials and reads classified intelligence, Kushner would typically have a fast-tracked background investigation, security-clearance experts said.

Inside the White House, officials have discussed concerns that the delay in Kushner's clearance is partly a result of repeated updates he made to a form detailing his contacts with foreign officials.

Trump wants to do what he wants when he wants, and one gets the sense that although Kelly has been incredibly weak as the chief of staff, he is still the only person providing even shred of order to the chaos that is this administration.

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