Kushner Loses Top-Secret Security Clearance, According To Reports

Feb 28, 2018
Originally published on February 28, 2018 4:05 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Jared Kushner has been put in charge of a lot of very important issues inside the White House. His portfolio includes trying to find peace in the Middle East and streamlining the entire federal bureaucracy. But a decision by the White House chief of staff is going to make it tougher for the president's son-in-law to be effective in any of his roles as an unpaid senior adviser to the president. According to multiple reports, Kushner has lost the top-level security clearance he had been using on an interim basis. Mara Liasson joins us now. She's NPR's national political correspondent. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: So critics of the Trump administration have long bristled at the fact that Jared Kushner never got a permanent security clearance and was still allowed to see top-secret information. So what finally compelled this change?

LIASSON: What finally compelled this change was the fallout from the Rob Porter controversy. Porter was the former White House staff secretary who also had a temporary top-secret clearance. Then it was revealed that one of the reasons this secret clearance was held up was that his two former wives had accused Porter of domestic violence. So after that was revealed, the Chief of Staff John Kelly decided that anyone whose security clearance had been pending since before June 1 would be downgraded from top-secret to secret. That affected dozens of White House officials who had these temporary clearances, including Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, whose security clearance has been pending for over a year.

MARTIN: I mean, is he ever going to get it? I mean, is Kushner going to be able to do any of the jobs he's supposed to do?

LIASSON: Well, it's unclear if he'll ever get a permanent clearance. Many people think no. But what it means for his job is that he can no longer read the presidential daily brief, he won't have access to some highly classified intelligence. On a practical level, it means that the head of the CIA comes over to brief the president on top-secret information, Kushner could be asked to leave the room. Now, John Kelly has said that this would not affect Kushner's ability to do his job. That might be true for certain parts of his job, like overseeing technology innovation or prison reform, but people who've served in past administrations say it will be very difficult for Kushner to continue overseeing other parts of his vast portfolio, which include the Middle East peace process, relations with Mexico and with China. That's going to be very hard.

MARTIN: Also worth noting, this report in The Washington Post saying that four foreign governments have privately discussed ways that they can manipulate Jared Kushner by taking advantage of his very complex business arrangements. I imagine that's something that would jeopardize a full security clearance for him.

LIASSON: Absolutely. This Washington Post report, which is based on intelligence intercepts, shows that officials in China, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Israel all discussed ways to manipulate or take advantage of Kushner, partially because of his inexperience in foreign policy, but also because his business dealings are not just complex, but his family real estate business has very large debt. So that's something that could deny him a permanent clearance. In addition, Kushner has made many amendments to his security clearance form. And in past administrations, that alone, failing to report contacts with foreign officials, would have been enough to deny someone a clearance.

MARTIN: I mean, Jared Kushner doesn't need this job, right? Like, it's a non-paying job. There's a lot of hassles associated with it. Is this the beginning of the end for his tenure at the White House?

LIASSON: That's unclear. There are no indications that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump plan to leave the White House and go back to New York, but yesterday, one of Jared Kushner's top aides and spokesman said that he was going to go back to New York and re-enter the private sector.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.