Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and policy advisor on a range of issues, finally lost his top-level security clearance on Friday on the orders of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to a report in Politico.
The decision to strip away Kushner’s access to highly sensitive information is the culmination of months of reporting on his conflicts of interest, lack of experience, and sensitive financial holdings, some of which reside outside of the United States. Indeed, shortly after reports of Kushner’s clearance were published, the Washington Post dropped a story detailing how government officials in at least four countries—China, Mexico, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates—were working to manipulate Kushner to their own advantage by exploiting his financial difficulties and general ignorance on matters of foreign policy.
Ever since he joined the administration in January of 2017, Kushner, along with dozens of other White House staff, has been allowed to operate using an interim security clearance. The practice itself isn’t unusual, but the number of Trump administration officials who have still yet to receive long-term clearance — by some estimates, as many as 40 were relying on interim clearances before Friday’s crackdown — is abnormal.
Kushner was, by far, the most high-profile recipient of an interim clearance, as well as its most prodigious user. According to reports, Kushner requests more intelligence information than anyone else in the White House. And yet, his bid for long-term security clearance might be the most fraught. Though he has yet to be formally named, Kushner is thought to be a central focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia. The New York Times reported that Kushner was forwarded a series of emails during the 2016 campaign from individuals looking to arrange a meeting between the Kremlin and Trump campaign officials. Those emails were then reportedly withheld from Mueller’s investigators, prompting even more questions about Kushner’s role.
According to reports, Kushner also helped orchestrate former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s communication with Russian officials. After pleading guilty late last year to lying to the FBI about his contact with officials inside Russia, Flynn disclosed that he was operating under the direction of a “very senior official” on the Trump transition team. Multiple news outlets reported that the unnamed official was Kushner.
Kushner himself made direct overtures to Russian officials, including conversations with Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak prior to Trump’s inauguration, in which he proposed setting up a secretive, direct line of communication between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team. Those conversations set off alarm bells at the FBI.
And then there’s Kushner’s extensive business holdings. As with all White House officials, Kushner had to fill out financial disclosure forms when he took the job in the White House. But in the year since he first filed his paperwork, Kushner has had to make more than 40 revisions to his original disclosure, adding millions in previously undisclosed assets to his record. The most recent change was filed just last month, and more changes might still be filed, according to a report by Talking Points Memo two weeks ago.
Many of Kushner’s assets are derived from his family company’s vast real estate portfolio, which spans continents. Some of his company’s biggest investors have also been connected to the Kremlin, according to the New York Times. Among them is Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, who used a series of shell companies to obfuscate million of dollars of investments supplied by the Russian government to buy large stakes in both Twitter and Facebook — and Cadre, a real-estate technology firm founded by Kushner.
The true extent of Kushner’s financial ties to Russia and other foreign governments and investors might never be fully understood. His company has fought hard to keep its investors a secret, and since the election, Kushner has met with at least one executive from VEB, a state-owned Russian bank that is currently under heavy sanctions by the U.S. government.
In the meantime, Kushner will have to continue his work solving the opioid crisis, reforming the criminal justice system, serving as the diplomatic liaison to China and Mexico, and bringing peace to the Middle East without access to the president’s daily briefings.