Posts tagged with "Security clearance"

Secrets and lies: Why were we misled about Jared Kushner’s security clearance?

March 4, 2019

As Rudy Giuiliani would say, “The truth isn’t the truth.” And that statement, made last August by President Donald Trump’s attorney, now seems especially relevant to the messages spun by the White House about how the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, got his top -security clearance

After denying it for months, President Trump finally has admitted that he ordered aides to put through a top-security clearance for Kushner. This presents no problem; it is the president’s prerogative to do so. But why the secrecy and lies?

Let’s go back to the beginning.

According to a report by ProPublica, nearly 18 months into the new administration, Kushner’s F.B.I. background check still had not been “completed.”

Kushner had gone back to make at least 40 changes to the disclosure report that he had filed with the Office of Government and Ethics to obtain his security clearance—and had formally submitted the form at least three times in total.

Yet, Intelligence officials and Executive Office personnel staff were digging in their heels and refusing to move forward to grant Kushner the high-security clearance he needed to access sensitive White House information.

He effectively was stuck in a holding pattern, unable to move forward due to family and business connections—and unwilling to back off from his high-profile White House position.

And in fact, Kushner never would have received his clearance, if he had stuck to the “standard process,” as both the president and ‘First Daughter’ Ivanka have claimed he did.

“I was never involved with the security” clearances for Jared Kushner, the president told two reporters from The New York Times for a February 1 report, adding, “I know that there [were] issues back and forth about security for numerous people, actually. But I don’t want to get involved in that stuff.”

Daughter Ivanka said in a February 8 interview with ABC-TV’s The View, “There were anonymous leaks about there being issues, but the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.”

At that juncture, however, only one person could have—or would have—ended the standoff.

While the White House’s personnel security office is tasked with granting security clearances, if there is a dispute about how to move forward, the White House counsel makes the decision. However, in highly unusual cases, the president can weigh in and grant one, himself.

And that’s exactly what happened, the Times reported last week. Action only was taken to elevate the security clearance after Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, repeatedly had complained in person to the president—and Donald Trump had opted to take action himself.

In May, the president stepped in to direct his then-Chief of Staff John Kelly to overrule concerns and “fix the problem,” according to a person familiar with Kelly’s account who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity.

With great reluctance, Kelly moved forward, enabling Carl Kline, director of the Personnel Security Office in the Executive Office to overrule security experts and approve a top-security clearance for Kushner.

However, Kelly took precautions: In the scenario described by the news outlet, “… Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been ‘ordered’ to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

In addition, the White House counsel at the time, Donald McGahn, wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Kushner—including by the C.I.A—and how he had recommended that Kushner not be given a top-secret clearance.

Six months later, and for no clear reason, the entire process still is cloaked in secrecy.

An attorney for McGahn declined to comment. The former chief of staff, who left the administration at the beginning of this year, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders refused to weigh in on February 28, instead saying: “We don’t comment on security clearances.”

Finally, as Fox News reported when the news of the president’s intervention hit, “A spokesman for White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s attorney told Fox News [on February 28] that President Trump’s son-in-law received a top-secret security clearance through ‘the regular process with no pressure from anyone.’”

Research contact @nytimes

Should Kushner lose his White House gig?

March 12, 2018

More than half of Americans (55%) say that it worries them that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has had access to top-secret information during the past year, while 41% say it is not a problem, based on findings of a Monmouth University Poll among 803 U.S. adults  released on March 7.

Kushner’s security clearance was taken down a peg in late February by Chief of Staff John Kelly, after the POTUS, himself, disencumbered himself from the political and personal decision.

Since the 2017 inauguration, Kushner had been working at the White House in a senior adviser role that enabled him to read top-security reports prepared for the president’s eyes (and those of his most-trusted and highly vetted staff) only.

His security clearance has now been downgraded to “secret”—representing a substantial diminution of his access and power.

The Monmouth poll finds that the public is divided on the role that the Trump family business plays in administration policymaking. Overall, 43% believe that the personal financial interests of Trump family members have too much influence on policy decisions made by the president. Another 20% say these personal interests have an acceptable amount of influence and 31% say they have no influence on presidential decision-making.

Few Americans (24%), though, think it is a good idea that the president’s son-in-law is working in the White House as an unpaid senior adviser. Fully 6-in-10 (60%) think it is a bad idea.

A majority (55%) of respondents to the Monmouth poll also think that Kushner should resign from his position, while 33% say he should continue working in the White House.

About six out of ten (62%) of those polled had already heard about Kushner’s security clearance downgrade before being interviewed and, among this group, 57% say his prior access to top-secret information worries them with 61% saying Kushner should resign.

Most Americans (57%) say that the Trump family’s personal financial interests or other ties to Russia definitely (29%) or probably (28%) influence the way Trump deals with that country’s government. Less than 40% say these ties do not play a role in the president’s approach to Russian relations (19%, probably no;t and 17%, definitely not).

The public is divided on whether the Trump administration may be too friendly toward Russia. For the president himself, 52% are concerned that Trump is too friendly and 46% are not concerned. Similarly, 52% are concerned that other members of the administration are too friendly and 43% are not concerned about this.

The public also is divided on whether Trump’s attitude toward Russia presents a national security threat: Fully 50% say it does and 45% say it does not. These results have not changed significantly from polls taken last year. Specifically, concern that Trump is too friendly toward Russia has ranged from 48% to 54% since he took office.

“When it comes to how Trump deals with Russia, the American public seems to have locked in their views months ago. Actions taken, or not taken, by the administration and revelations about the investigation over the past year have done little to move this opinion,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll finds, though, that nearly two-thirds (64%) say the Russian government is definitely (26%) or probably (38%) trying to interfere in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. And nearly three-quarters of Americans say that Russia definitely (43%) or probably (30%) interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

The 73% who now believe in the likelihood of Russian interference in 2016 is up from 65% who said the same in July 2017.

Research contact: pdmurray@monmouth.edu