Earlier this week, Ivanka Trump explained that a federal jobs guarantee was a terrible idea that no one should support because “Americans, in their heart, [don’t] want to be given something. . . . People want to work for what they get.” This struck many as something of a curious philosophy, given the circumstances under which both the First Daughter and her husband earned their jobs in the White House (having them handed to them, despite their egregious lack of qualifications), in addition to everything else in their lives. And on Thursday, a new report suggested that Ivanka and Jared may not subscribe to the “no handouts” policy, for themselves, at all!
The New York Times reports that the only reason Jared Kushner was granted the highest level of security clearance last May was because his father-in-law, Donald Trump, demanded it—over the objections of intelligence officials, the White House’s top lawyer, and the chief of staff at the time. Prior to May, Kushner had been assigned clearance on an “interim top-secret” basis, which was downgraded to “secret” in February 2018, and which limited his access to classified information. And for good reason!
[T]he clearance had been held up in part over questions from the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. about his foreign and business contacts, including those related to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the events.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Kushner was part of a group that met with a Russian lawyer who went to Trump Tower claiming to have political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. And during the presidential transition, Mr. Kushner had a meeting with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, and the head of a Russian state-owned bank. When he applied for a security clearance, he did not reveal those meetings.
Unsurprisingly, the holdup did not sit well with either Kushner or Ivanka (who had also been operating on a temporary clearance), creating a situation that the couple presumably dealt with in a professional and reasonable fashion, i.e., by stomping their feet and yelling, “DADDY, WE WANT OUR TOP-SECRET SECURITY CLEARANCE, AND WE WANT IT NOW!”
Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump both complained to the president about the situation, current and former administration officials said.
In Mr. Kushner’s case, Mr. Trump would often turn to other aides and say in frustration, “Why isn’t this getting done?” according to a former administration official. On at least one occasion, the president asked another senior official if the person could sort out the issue. That official said no, according to this account.
Like Kushner and Ivanka, though, Donald Trump is unfamiliar with the concept of “no,” and wasn’t about to educate himself, even if it meant risking the security of the country. His extremely easily manipulated son-in-law was going to get his top-secret clearance, and he was going to get it now, goddamnit!
Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.
The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner—including by the C.I.A.—and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.
To be clear, the normal process for granting someone a security clearance involves the White House’s personnel security office making a determination after an F.B.I. background check. If there is a dispute about how to move forward—something that rarely happens—the White House counsel makes the call, which, in this case, was overruled by the president, another highly unusual occurrence. Also highly unusual? For the president, his daughter, and his son-in-law’s lawyer to insist everything was done by the book when that clearly wasn’t the case:
The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.
Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, also said that at the time the clearance was granted last year that his client went through a standard process. Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and Mr. Kushner’s wife, said the same thing three weeks ago.
(Ivanka’s exact words: “There were anonymous leaks about there being issues. But the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.”)
In a statement on Thursday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.” Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer, offered the bizarre explanation that new revelations don’t change the original statements, even if said revelations suggest the original statements were lies. (“In 2018, White House and security-clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone,” Mirijanian said. “That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”)
Democrats have already announced that their committees will be looking into the curious case of Kushner’s clearance, with Representative Adam Schiff saying in a statement that the allegations are “the latest indicator of the president’s utter disregard for our national security and for the men and women who sacrifice so much every day to keep us safe.” In related news, earlier this week, Kushner was reunited with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the first time since the kingdom murdered a U.S. resident via bone saw, and news emerged about the administration’s efforts to sell “sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.”
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