Speed Reads

that'll do it

White House officials seeking security clearance are being asked if they could be blackmailed

It has been an awkward few weeks for the White House. When former Staff Secretary Rob Porter was publicly accused of physically and verbally abusing his ex-wives, the White House struggled to get its story straight, with Chief of Staff John Kelly claiming he demanded Porter's resignation within 40 minutes of understanding the severity of the allegations last week, while FBI Director Christopher Wray said he first briefed the White House on Porter in March 2017.

Concerns about how Porter lasted so long in the White House are multifaceted, although one branch is focused on national security — chiefly, that Porter had interim security clearance while his full clearance status was pending. Due to the abuse allegations against him, Porter was theoretically susceptible to blackmail, and therefore posed a national security threat.

In order to nip similar scandals in the bud, the White House has reportedly distributed supplemental questions to some of the more than 130 officials who lacked full security clearances as of November. The questions, which are not included on the official government questionnaire, inquire "whether anything in their backgrounds — or those of family members — could pose a conflict of interest, be a source of embarrassment, or be used to blackmail them," NBC News writes. Another question asks: "Are you aware of any reason not discussed above that may call into question your suitability to serve in public office?"

Aides who had forms of interim security clearance as of November include Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, White House counsel Don McGahn, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.