- President Donald Trump ordered then-White House chief of staff John Kelly to approve senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s top-secret security clearance, people briefed on a contemporaneous memo said in a New York Times report.
- Kelly reportedly wrote how he believed he had been “ordered” to approve Kushner’s security clearance, despite having reservations.
- Then-White House counsel Don McGahn also had concerns about allowing Kushner to access top-secret intelligence and wrote a memo recommending Kushner be denied clearance.
- As president, Trump has the legal basis to grant a security clearance.
- But Trump previously denied playing a role in the process and said he was “never involved with the security.”
President Donald Trump ordered then-White House chief of staff John Kelly to grant senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s top-secret security clearance, people briefed on a contemporaneous memo told the New York Times in a report published Thursday.
Kushner, who possessed an interim top secret clearance up until February 2018, received a lower class of clearance after Kelly conducted a review.
Kushner reportedly raised the issue with Trump, who pushed officials to approve his top-secret clearance. Around May 2018, Trump ordered Kelly to grant Kushner the security clearance, The Times reported.
According to the report, Kelly wrote a contemporaneous memo about how he believed he had been “ordered” to approve of Kushner’s security clearance, despite having reservations.
Then-White House counsel Don McGahn also had concerns about allowing Kushner to access top-secret intelligence and wrote a memo recommending Kushner be denied one.
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As president, Trump has the legal basis to grant a security clearance. If the White House personnel security office finds discrepancies in the FBI’s background check, the White House counsel weighs in and makes the determination.
But Trump previously denied having used his clout to influence the process. In an interview with The Times last month, Trump claimed he was “never involved with the security” and he did not “want to get involved in that stuff.”
Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s attorney, also suggested Kushner “underwent the normal process” to obtain his clearance in 2018. A spokesperson for Lowell reaffirmed that Kushner went through the normal procedure for approval.
“In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone,” spokesperson Peter Mirijanian said to The Times on Thursday. “That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”
Kushner’s security clearance has been scrutinized by Democratic lawmakers and security experts. Many claimed that his mere presence in the White House was a sign of nepotism and that his access to top-secret intelligence could be a breach in national security. Two White House security experts previously deemed his security clearance application “unfavorable” due to potential influence from foreign entities, according to an NBC report in January.
Kushner made over a hundred errors on his SF-86, an extensive security clearance application that lists foreign contacts and other pertinent travel information. The omissions on Kushner’s form were the likes of which was never seen by the National Background Investigations Bureau, according to its chief.
“I have never seen that level of mistakes,” NBIB director Charles Phalen said in a House subcommittee meeting in February 2018.