Jared Kushner stripped of top-level security clearance
President's son-in-law is one of several White House staff to have clearance downgraded
While maintaining the responsibility for trying to broker peace between Israel and Palestinians and other high-profile tasks, Mr Kushner has had his interim security clearance downgraded from top secret to secret, along with a host of others. The change was also confirmed by Mr Kushner’s lawyer.
All White House aides who had been working on an interim clearance were informed of the change via an internal memo, Politico reported. The document was not signed by Chief of Staff John Kelly, however.
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The staffers, all operating on a Top Secret/Secret Compartmentalised Information (SCI) clearance, were taken down to the Secret designation.
The SCI designation meant staffers had access to information that came from sensitive intelligence sources and had to be “walled off”, according to the news outlet.
Mr Kushner, 37, had been attending Mr Trump’s daily briefings from the US intelligence committee, but will no longer have access to those.
The memo appeared to be in response to facts unveiled during the scandal involving former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter.
Mr Porter resigned from his position earlier this month after it was revealed that his two former wives were accusing him of alleged physical abuse and that was why Mr Porter’s permanent security clearance had not gone through as yet.
He was one of several White House staff who had not received their permanent clearance but who still had fairly unfettered access to secret information.
Mr Trump has the right to grant Mr Kushner permanent clearance and it remains unclear why he has not done so yet.
On 23 February, the same day of the clearance memo, Mr Trump said he would leave the decision up to Mr Kelly. The former Marine general said that same day in a statement: “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.”
It is unclear whether Mr Kushner needs Top Secret/SCI clearance in order to work on the Middle East peace process or the US relationship with Mexico.
Mr Kushner had repeatedly hit roadblocks on his way to obtaining the permanent security clearance – the former New York real estate broker had to refile his paperwork multiple times.
The chief of the National Investigations Bureau Charles Phalen told a House committee back in October 2017 that he had “never seen that level of mistakes” made on the form before.
Altogether the form included four addenda and well over 100 errors – whether by omission or mistakenly entered information.
One notable missing item on his initial form was his June 2016 meeting with his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr, then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer linked with the Kremlin Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The group had reportedly met to talk about adoptions of Russian orphans by US citizens but by Mr Trump Jr’s own admission, the meeting had been set up for “opposition research” - Ms Veselnitskaya had information on 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton’s financial dealings in Russia.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not comment directly on the memo but said during a news conference that Mr Kushner is “a valued member of the team and he will continue to do the important work that he’s been doing since he’s started in the administration.”
His attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement that his client “has done more than what is expected of him in [the security clearance] process”, adding that the change in clearance level would “not affect Mr Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President”.
His appointment to the position was met with criticism last year due to his lack of political or government service experience.