WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump personally ordered his former chief of staff John Kelly to grant a top-secret security clearance to his son-in-law Jared Kushner despite concerns from officials, according to media reports.
The New York Times and Washington Post reported Thursday that Kelly documented Trump’s request in a memo. Both outlets cited unnamed sources. USA TODAY has not verified the claims and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “we don’t comment on security clearances.”
Trump’s directive reportedly took place last year amid concerns from White House officials about Kushner’s clearance level. The reports starkly contradict comments the president has made, in which Trump declared he had nothing to do with Kushner’s clearance.
The Times reported that former White House Counsel Don McGahn documented his concerns with Kushner’s clearance in a memo. The paper said it is unclear exactly what resulted in such concern relating to Kushner’s security level.
Kushner, a senior advisor to the president, was granted a permanent clearance in May of last year after almost three months in security limbo.
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Responding to the reports of Trump’s conduct on Thursday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of House Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued a warning to the White House.
He said the committee, which is investigating the security clearance process at the White House, had not received any of the documents they had requested about the security clearances.
“The Committee expects full compliance with its requests a soon as possible, or it may become necessary to consider alternative means to compel compliance,” Cummings said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also commented late Thursday, saying in a statement that the reports showed Trump’s “utter disregard for our national security.”
“There is no nepotism exception for background investigations,” he said.
Kushner’s lawyer has said previously that his client completed the background check process and that it was held up in part because he neglected to fully account for his contacts with foreign nationals.
“His application was properly submitted, reviewed by career officials and went through the normal process,” attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement at the time. “Having completed these processes, Mr. Kushner is looking forward to continuing the work the president has asked him to do.”
Kushner’s permission to view top secret information was revoked in February 2018 after Kelly declared a moratorium on temporary security clearances.
Kushner was the most high-profile of several top White House staffers caught in the aftermath of a scandal involving Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary accused by former wives of domestic violence. Porter’s security clearance was held up for almost a year while he worked on an interim clearance — though he continued to have access to almost every classified and unclassified document coming in and out of the Oval Office.
Kelly left his position as Trump’s chief of staff at the beginning of the year after a series of internal tensions spilled into public view.
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