Although two of President Donald Trump’s top officials John F. Kelly, then-chief of staff and then-White House counsel Donald McGahn were strongly opposed to the order, Jared Kushner was granted a top-secret security clearance.
Kelly told colleagues that the decision was not supported by career intelligence officials. McGahn had concerns about Kushner’s clearance.
But by May 2018, Kushner had been granted a permanent security clearance to view top-secret material — a move that followed months of concern inside the White House about his inability to secure such access.
It has been reported that Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, pressured the president to grant Kushner the long-delayed clearance. Trump instructed Kelly to fix the problem, it’s been reported by two people familiar with the memo and the then-chief of staff’s concerns.
In the first year of the administration, Kushner held an interim security clearance that allowed him to view top secret and sensitive compartmented information, which is classified intelligence related to sensitive sources. With that designation, he has been able to attend classified briefings, get access to the president’s daily intelligence report and issue requests for information to the intelligence community.
But there was widespread concern in the White House about his lack of a permanent clearance, first reported by the New York Times.
In February 2018, Kelly limited the access of employees with interim security clearances to top secret information in the wake of abuse allegations against a top aide. That new policy caused Kushner’s clearance to be downgraded from “Top Secret/SCI” level to the “Secret” level, a far lower level of access to classified information.
Kelly and McGahn are no longer working in the White House.
Kushner did not receive a clearance to see the most highly classified intelligence the government produces, known as sensitive, compartmented information, or SCI, The Washington Post reported.
That meant that Kushner was effectively barred from seeing information gleaned from human spies or from the government’s vast signals intelligence apparatus. It’s that kind of intelligence that forms the basis of the president’s daily intelligence briefing and that is customarily given to senior policymakers and Cabinet officials.
Kushner’s lack of SCI access suggests that the CIA has not signed off on his receiving that level of intelligence, security experts said. He had struggled to obtain even his top secret clearance, in part because of his contacts with certain foreign government officials, The Post previously reported.
Some foreign officials, whose communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, privately discussed how they could manipulate Kushner, taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties he had at the time and his lack of foreign-policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Congressional Democrats said Thursday, that they plan to aggressively scrutinize the role Trump played in securing Kushner’s clearance. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, noted that his committee has already launched an investigation into the White House security clearance process and has yet to receive a response to its request for documents.
The questionable boost in Kushner’s security clearance, powered by his father-in-law, may pose new dangers in the world of intelligence communications, protected by strong rules designed to provide a top level of safety for all Americans.
On March 6, Business Insider and other media outlets reported that Trump had also pressured his staff to grant his daughter Ivanka security clearance, despite objections from senior staffers.