Yesterday, the New York Times broke the story that Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner had been declined a top-secret security clearance but that President Trump had ordered that Kushner be granted the clearance.
President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.
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.
The reason Kushner had been denied a clearance is unknown but it appears to have been a combination of concerns about the Kushner family’s, including Jared Kushner’s, overseas businesses and investors and, most probably, the fact that Kushner basically blew off the SF-86, the basic document used for security clearances, and delegated it to an intern. (See my post Jared Kushner Gets Security Clearance. Finally.)
My gut feeling over this is that Jared and Ivanka were being screwed with by people who were hostile to the incoming Trump administration teaming up with people who disliked Jared and Ivanka. Whatever. I don’t think any sane person believes Kushner2 are security risks because their entire lives are linked to being loyal to Trump.
This is the bottom line:
While the president has the legal authority to grant a clearance, in most cases, the White House’s personnel security office makes a determination about whether to grant one after the F.B.I. has conducted a background check. If there is a dispute in the personnel security office about how to move forward — a rare occurrence — the White House counsel makes the decision. In highly unusual cases, the president weighs in and grants one himself.
Bingo. The president can grant a security clearance. And, if he does this outside the bureaucracy, then he’s to blame for any breaches that occur. Looking at the leaks that emanated from Justice and the FBI about this, and looking at this story, one has to conclude that the people who passed the security clearance screening are much less trustworthy than either Kushner.
Why does the New York Times care about this?
WaPo confirms and matches NYT exclusive on Trump ordering Kelly to give a clearance to Kushner, despite claiming otherwise https://t.co/b2eddtOQ6X
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 1, 2019
Because Trump, wait for it, lied to Haberman in an interview.
Mr. Trump said he played no role in directing White House officials to arrange for Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, to receive a top-secret clearance. Mr. Kushner’s application was rejected at least once after concerns were raised by the F.B.I. about his foreign contacts. The C.I.A., which also raised concerns, has continued to deny him access to “sensitive compartmentalized information.”
First, I don’t care if Trump lied to Haberman. She’s shown no great loyalty to telling the truth about the administration. Second, the people peeing themselves over this could never bestir themselves to ask how Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, had been denied a security clearance because of his ties to Tehran but suddenly ended up with one. Screw these people.
But this has set the pustulescent Elijah Cummings on a tear.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings on Friday accused the White House of stonewalling demands for documents and witnesses relating to the White House’s security clearance process, and warned that this would be the White House’s last chance to comply before the panel issues subpoenas.
“Over the past five weeks, the White House has stalled, equivocated, and failed to produce a single document or witness to the committee,” Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “The White House has refused to commit to providing any information regarding the security clearance of any specific White House official, and the president has asserted no constitutional privilege to withhold this information from Congress.”
Cummings’s letter is nonsense. It is highly doubtful that his committee can exercise “oversight” of White House operations any more than Trump can send in the GAO to audit the inner workings of Cummings’s committee. This is basic separation of powers. Security clearances are managed by the executive branch, not the legislative branch, and it is unclear what Cummings hopes to accomplish, other than the obvious, by trying to wedge his nose into this. Cummings is keeping his “demands” in letter form, rather than voting on a subpoena, because every letter is good for a fundraising email, but the subpoena that gets ruled unconstitutional does nothing for him.
It is more of the theater of the absurd that Cummings and his cohorts are engaged in. They are making silly demands because they want to appear to be doing something.
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