Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised concerns about new information discovered while conducting a background check into presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner. That, apparently, is what has caused Chief of Staff John Kelly to revise White House policies regarding security clearances.
The concerns were raised in a phone call between Rosenstein and White House Counsel Don McGahn on February 9. Rosenstein told McGahn that newly discovered information would delay the security clearance process of Kushner. The phone call was placed to discuss the status of security clearances for a number of officials, including Kushner.
The revelation prompted John Kelly to institute new policies that say administration officials working with interim security clearances would no longer be able to request or review top-secret, classified information. The move was said to target Kushner specifically.
Jared Kushner has been working on a temporary security clearance level since entering the White House in January 2017, an unusually long time according to security experts. He has filed three amendments to his original background-check paperwork, after it was found that he failed to fully disclose contacts with foreign government and business officials dating back several years. Kushner said the omissions were inadvertent.
In the wake of a scandal regarding former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who had also been working in a high position at the White House on an extended interim security basis, Kelly announced a number of changes to White House policy regarding the process. Among them were that officials whose background checks have been pending since June 1 of last year or earlier, would have their top-secret clearances revoked.
That cutoff date was believed to have been chosen specifically with Kushner in mind as he initially failed to disclose dozens of contacts he had with foreign business and governmental actors, on the standard disclosure forms. He subsequently amended his submission, but that process meant that his background information was not fully submitted until June, after Kelly’s cutoff.
Kelly’s new policies were set to go into effect yesterday, Friday, which left many to wonder what the status of Kushner’s, among others’, security clearances would be. Kushner has been giving an extensive portfolio of foreign-affair, as well as domestic-economic issues by the President.
Kushner has reportedly requested more U.S. intelligence information than any other White House staffer not working for the National Security Council in the time he’s been at the White House. He currently holds a Top Secret/sensitive compartmented information (SCI) security clearance, which is the nation’s highest. It allows Kushner to review some of the nation’s most sensitive information, including the presidential daily briefing. Kushner has reportedly told colleagues that he doesn’t want to give up access to high-level information.
Kelly, has told officials that he is uncomfortable with Kushner’s uncertain security status. He has also quietly expressed a desire to see Kushner and, First Daughter Ivanka Trump, his wife, leave their positions as full-time White House staffers.
Publicly, however, Kushner has expressed confidence in Kushner’s ability and in the ability for him to accomplish the tasks President Trump has charged him with regardless of his top-secret security clearance status.
“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in a statement this week.
“Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the president’s agenda. There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise,” he added.