Speed Reads

father knows best?

Trump reportedly ordered John Kelly to give Jared Kushner top-secret clearance, despite denials, objections

Early last year, President Trump overruled intelligence officials and then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn and ordered Chief of Staff John Kelly to give senior adviser Jared Kushner top-secret security clearance, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported Thursday evening, citing current and former administration officials. Kelly, who resigned in January, was so concerned about the directive, the Times reports, he "wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been 'ordered' to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance."

It isn't clear what language Trump used in directing Kelly to give Kushner top-secret clearance — something presidents have the legal authority to do — but both Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump, Kushner's wife, said earlier this year that Trump played no role in upgrading Kushner's security clearance level. You can hear both these details starting at the 1-minute mark in Erin Burnett's report at CNN:

The FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies had concerns about Kushner from Day 1, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Kushner, currently touring the Middle East, was originally granted temporary clearance to see both top secret and sensitive compartmented information (SCI), the highest designation, but Kelly downgraded him to secret clearance in February 2018.

At that time, Trump said in a news conference he would let Kelly decide about Kushner's clearance level, "and I have no doubt that he will make the right decision." But Kushner and Ivanka Trump complained to the president, and Kushner's low clearance was an embarrassment for the White House, the Post and the Times report, and Trump ordered Kelly to take care of it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment, and a spokesman for Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell pointed to 2018 statements attributed to the White House and security clearance officials affirming that "Kushner's security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone." The day Lowell made that statement, "Kushner had asked White House officials to deliver a statement from Mr. Kelly supporting what Mr. Lowell had said," the Times reports. "But Mr. Kelly refused to do so."