Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, will be barred from looking at sensitive documents that he previously had access to, according to multiple media reports.
Kushner and several other White House aides were informed in a memo on Friday that their interim security clearances would be downgraded from top-secret/SCI-level (sensitive compartmented information) to secret level, according to a report from Politico on Tuesday. Reuters also reported that Kushner has lost access to the president’s daily briefing, a daily digest of intelligence updates.
The news comes days after Chief of Staff John Kelly announced plans to overhaul the Trump administration’s security clearance process for staff.
On Friday, February 16, Kelly sent out a memo outlining new rules and procedures for administration standards. Media outlets, including the Washington Post, speculated that this would affect Kushner and potentially dozens of other White House aides still lacking long-term security clearances.
Kelly’s memo was, in part, a reaction to revelations that since-ousted staff secretary Rob Porter had an interim security clearance and remained on the job even after the FBI, Kelly, and White House counsel Don McGahn were made aware of allegations of physical and emotional abuse against him from former ex-wives and a former girlfriend.
Kushner has a checkered past, security-wise, and a whole lot of responsibility
Kushner, a 37-year-old investor and real estate developer who is married to the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, had not been granted a permanent security clearance.
Perhaps part of the reason is that he has repeatedly made amendments to forms detailing his contacts with foreign officials and financial assets. He’s also claimed to have forgotten vital information in his dealings with Congress and the ongoing Russia probe. Finally, he is reportedly under scrutiny from the FBI, which is conducting his background investigation, due to his complicated financial ties and the fact that he failed to disclose more than 100 foreign contacts on his initial clearance application.
President Trump has the ability to grant Kushner a permanent clearance but said on Friday he would leave the decision up to Kelly. “I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision,” Trump told reporters.
In a statement, Kelly said he has “full confidence” in Kushner’s ability to continue to perform his foreign policy duties, including overseeing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and managing the US’s relationship with Mexico.
According to a report from the Washington Post, not only was Kushner enjoying unfettered access to the presidential daily briefing without a permanent clearance but he was also issuing more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee apart from the National Security Council staff.
When Trump came to the White House, he tasked Kushner with an impossibly extensive portfolio, which included updating the federal government’s technology system, handling diplomacy with China and Mexico, reforming the criminal justice system, crafting an opioid abuse strategy, and negotiating peace in the Middle East.
News that Kushner had lost his high-level security clearance led some to question what it might mean for his job description, including when it comes to the Middle East.
Jared can't serve as the Middle East peace envoy with SECRET clearance. That job requires access to TOP SECRET, compartmented, extremely sensitive intel. Otherwise you're flying blind. https://t.co/iDJecUOkKm— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) February 27, 2018
Kushner isn’t the only one affected by the new security clearance rules — there are reportedly several other White House aides who also haven’t been given permanent status, and whose interim clearances were downgraded.
As Washington lawyer Mark Zaid recently explained to Vox’s Sean Illing, in most presidential administrations, permanent security clearances aren’t so problematic. But this isn’t a typical administration.
“This White House is unusual on so many different levels,” Zaid said. “You have people with no prior government experience, no security clearance experience, and extensive financial engagements and foreign connections that most typical federal workers would not have seen. So all of this has created a unique situation, and there really is no precedent for it.”