Report: Trump ordered security clearance for Kushner

Officials say Trump ordered that senior adviser Jared Kushner be granted top-secret security clearance despite concerns by intelligence.

Ben Ariel ,

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner

US President Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing four people briefed on the matter.

With the order Trump overruled concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer about Kushner, according to the sources.

Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about. Kushner — including by the CIA — and how McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.

Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, also said at the time the clearance was granted last year that his client went through a standard process. Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and Kushner’s wife, said the same thing three weeks ago, noted The Times.

Asked on Thursday about the memos contradicting the president’s account, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, said on Thursday, “In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone. That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”

Last February it was reported that Kushner had his security clearance downgraded, preventing him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.

Subsequent reports suggested that Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials had raised concerns inside the White House and were a reason he was unable to obtain a permanent security clearance. The Times noted, however, that it is not known precisely what factors led to the problems with Kushner’s security clearance.

While the president has the legal authority to grant a clearance, in most cases, the White House’s personnel security office makes a determination about whether to grant the clearance after the FBI has conducted a background check. If there is a dispute in the personnel security office about how to move forward — a rare occurrence — the White House counsel makes the decision. In highly unusual cases, the president weighs in and grants one himself.

In Kushner’s case, personnel division officials were divided about whether to grant Kushner a top-secret clearance, noted The Times.

In May 2018, the White House Counsel’s Office, which at the time was led by McGahn, recommended to Trump that Kushner not be given a clearance at that level. But the following day, Trump ordered Kelly to grant it to Kushner anyway, the people familiar with the events said.

In a statement to The Times when Kushner received the clearance last year, Lowell said that “his application was properly submitted, reviewed by numerous career officials and underwent the normal process.”

House Democrats are in the early stages of an investigation into how several Trump administration officials obtained clearances, including Kushner, the report noted.