Last week President Trump decreed that how security clearances were managed in the White House was up to John Kelly. In making that statement, Trump acknowledged the damage done to the White House by the Rob Porter scandal and refused to be made the court of last resort in the dispute over whether his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, should continue to have access to TS/SCI material.
Now the decision has been made:
Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.
Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
The SCI acronym stands for sensitive compartmentalized information, a category of information that comes from sensitive intelligence sources and must be walled off.
The memo was not signed by chief of staff John Kelly, but it comes as the retired Marine general and other top White House aides are grappling with the fallout of a scandal involving former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, which revealed that dozens of White House aides had yet to receive permanent clearances but nonetheless had access to some of the country’s deepest secrets.
The president has the ability to grant Kushner a permanent clearance, but Trump said Friday — the same day the memo was sent — that he was leaving the decision to his chief of staff.
That’s would be a helluva comedown for Kushner. Having held both clearances, I can tell you that the average SECRET document is about as enlightening as the current copy of the Economist. If absolute, it also calls into question Kushner’s ability to continue working on Middle East negotiations as he’d no longer allowed to read the cables he’d be required to write or hear what was said in the meetings he attended.
Kelly took the rare step last week of issuing a public statement that Kushner would be able to continue his work in the White House unfettered.
“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in the statement.
It was unclear whether Kushner would need access to top secret information to continue performing those duties — and whether Kelly was prepared to enact a policy that could be perceived as a jab at the president’s son-in-law.
This seems to imply that some accommodation has been made has been made on a specific types of information.
But, on the whole, this is good news for a couple of reasons. The Kushner clearance issue was a needless foot shot by a White House that has inflicted many, many foot shots. If Trump wants Kushner around, he should just man up, exercise his legal prerogative and clear Kushner for TS/SCI information. It also seems that despite the daily posts on how Kelly is on the way out, that he’s doing his job without fear or favor.