President Donald Trump ordered his then-chief of staff John Kelly to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance despite repeated warnings from career intelligence officials, The New York Times reported.
Trump’s decision in May of 2017 “so troubled administration officials,” The Times reported, that Kelly wrote in a memo at the time that he had been “ordered” to grant Kushner the clearance. Kelly rebuffed repeated similar previous directives, according to the report.
Then-White House counsel Don McGahn also wrote an internal memo outlining the red flags raised by the CIA and others, The Times reported. McGahn wrote that he recommended Kushner not be given top-secret clearance.
The memos and the Times sources contradict Trump and his daughter Ivanka’s repeated denials that the president never intervened in Kushner’s security clearance process.
Kushner was granted a top-secret clearance last year but never received a higher-level clearance that would have given him access to the most sensitive government secrets.
Career intelligence officials cited questions about his business ties to foreign governments and his unreported contacts with foreign officials among the reasons that Kushner’s clearance was denied.
Trump, Ivanka repeatedly denied president intervened:
Trump repeatedly claimed that he did not intervene in the process to grant Kushner a clearance.
“No,” Trump told The New York Times in the Oval Office in January. “I don’t think I have the authority to do that. I’m not sure I do.”
When the Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out he does have the authority, Trump replied, “But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do it. … I was never involved with the security. I know that he — you know, just from reading — I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people, actually. But I don’t want to get involved in that stuff.”
Haberman asked Trump why he didn’t get involved.
“I never thought it was necessary,” he replied. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met any of the national security — of the people that would do clearances.”
“And you didn’t direct General Kelly or anyone like that to do it?” Haberman pressed.
“No,” Trump replied.
His daughter Ivanka also repeatedly denied that her father got involved.
“The president had had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero,” Ivanka told ABC News last month.
Intel Committee to probe Kushner clearance:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) vowed to look into the process that allowed Kushner to have a clearance top officials warned against.
Schiff told Politico that the revelations reveal the “deep unease that national security officials have about Kushner’s suitability” for “access to the nation’s most tightly held secrets.”
“There is no nepotism exception for background investigations,” he said.
“Congress should subpoena the memos,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who also sits on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, told The Washington Post. “They would inform us as to whether the recommendations of experienced background investigators were being ignored, and whether this jeopardized national security secrets. The public should know if our secrets are in the hands of unscrupulous individuals.”