White House Chief of Staff Jon Kelly announced new measures aimed at improving the White House’s security clearance process this week. The move comes in the wake of intense scrutiny the White House has received over the way it handled domestic abuse allegations leveled against a senior member of the team.
Revelations were made public in recent weeks that both of former White House Staff Secretary’s Rob Porter’s ex-wives had come forward with allegations that he had physically, emotionally and verbally abused them while they were married. The White House had said they were not aware of those allegations until one of the ex-wives, Colbie Hoderness, submitted photographs of a black eye Porter allegedly gave her to The Intercept last week.
In congressional testimony this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicted that account, saying the FBI had notified the White House of the allegations as early as last year. They were partly the reason Porter’s security clearance was being held up by the FBI. Porter had been operating under partial clearance the entire time he was employed by the White House.
Subsequent analysis has revealed that up to thirty to forty individuals at the White House, and other agencies within the administration, have not been fully cleared in terms of security, including the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Kelly said the new changes were an attempt to raise the standards for resolving clearance issues at the White House. “The American people deserve a White House staff that meets the highest standards and that has been carefully vetted — especially those who work closely with the president or handle sensitive national security information,” Kelly said in a memo sent on Friday. “We should — and in the future, must — do better.”
Kelly said he would be implementing the following changes: the creation of a written protocol for the review of security files; a more formal notification process regarding clearances between White House departments and the FBI; and new restrictions on what classified information those without full security clearance can view, among others.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have asked Kelly for more information regarding the administration’s handling of the Porter issue. Rep. Trey Gowdy, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, has also launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s response to the scandal.