The issue of security clearances for White House employees gained prominence after Staff Secretary Rob Porter resigned following revelations that his two ex-wives had made detailed allegations of physical abuse to both the police and FBI. According to senior White House administration officials, White House chief of staff John Kelly had prior knowledge of the abuse, including a protective order filed by Porter’s second wife, and knew he would be denied clearance before the allegations became public.
In spite of this, Porter handled some of the president’s most sensitive communication materials for over a year, without a permanent security clearance.
The Washington Post reports, 13 months into the Trump presidency, there still are dozens of White House officials who lack permanent security clearances. The most prominent of which is President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who the president has tapped as the administration official who would create peace in the middle east, spearhead criminal justice reform, and solve America’s opioid epidemic among a myriad of other jobs.
The White House has maintained that the delay in Kushner’s clearance is “completely normal,” and that extra scrutiny is involved for advisers like Kushner who require the highest level of security clearance. A White House official told Politico that the process could take 300 or so days — it has now been 385 days. The U.S. Government Accountability Office called the current security clearance system, “high risk” and warned it is in need of reform.
It is entirely abnormal, however, as Kushner has had to amend his SF-86 clearance form dozens of times after he omitted key meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyack, the head of state-run Vnesheconombank Sergey Gorkov, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, among nearly 100 others. He has amended his financial disclosure form 39 times.
Multiple reports about Kushner’s close relationship with Chinese officials raises more questions about his inability to secure a permanent security clearance. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kushner was warned about Wendi Deng Murdoch using her close friendship to Kushner and Ivanka Trump to advance Chinese interests in the United States. Some government officials have flagged Kushner’s meetings with Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States as problematic, raising concerns over whether Beijing is using Kushner’s close access to President Trump to influence policy. After a February 2017 meeting between Kushner and Tiankai, Kushner urged persuaded Trump to drop his threats to abandon the “One China” policy, which maintains China’s control over Taiwan.
Kushner’s family is also seeking billions in investment for various real estate projects, including a troubled property on 666 5th Avenue. Kushner personally helped secure financing to rescue that property from a company linked to the Chinese government before negative publicity torpedoed the deal.
Over the summer of 2017, there were multiple attempts by House Democrats to revoke Kushner’s clearance after it was revealed he attended a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. The Security Clearance Review Act, spearheaded by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), would authorize the FBI Director to rescind Kushner’s clearance should the Director decide it poses a national security risk.
“Donald Trump’s refusal to hold his senior staff accountable for their deceptions on Russia have sadly made this legislation necessary,” said Beyer in a statement on the bill. “Despite all we have learned about his secret meetings with Russians, Jared Kushner apparently continues to hold his clearance. Kushner’s case and that of disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn make it clear that we need further protections when it comes to security clearances for the President’s family and closest advisers.”
Kushner reportedly receives a copy of the Presidential Daily Brief, a daily compilation of America’s most important intelligence information, prepared for the president.
Kushner’s misdeeds not only affect his own security, but also that of Ivanka Trump, one of the president’s key advisers. In July of 2017, two dozen representatives called upon the F.B.I to see if Ivanka Trump omitted any details on her SF-86. The security clearance form requires the applicant’s spouse and/or sibling to disclose any foreign contacts, meetings, and business interests. This means she would have had to disclose Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.