Why Jared Kushner Is Having Trouble With His Security Clearance

Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump and a senior adviser to Donald Trump, still lacks the security clearance he would need to access some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to The Washington Post. The publication explains that for the first year of Trump’s presidency, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence. At the time, he held only an interim security clearance.

But as the Post reports, things changed in May, when Kushner received a permanent security clearance. He only received “top secret” clearance, ” a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence,” the publication explains.

Read on to find out what that means and why Jared Kushner is still having trouble with his security clearance.

Jared Kushner can’t review this kind of classified information

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner waits for a meeting with Prime Minister of Malaysia

Jared Kushner | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Because Jared Kushner’s security clearance is only “top secret,” he can’t access “sensitive compartmented information.” (That kind of classified information is otherwise known as SCI.) The Post reports that the Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this kind of information. And this category of information typically involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods. Kushner’s security clearance has prevented him from seeing some parts of the President’s Daily Brief.

His foreign contacts seem to be the biggest stumbling block

Jared Kushner’s business dealings have seemingly stood in the way of his efforts to get a permanent security clearance. The Post characterizes the process as “dogged by questions about his foreign contacts.” Newsweek reported in late 2017 that Kushner hadn’t passed the comprehensive background check. A major complication? When Kushner filled out his original paperwork, he reportedly “omitted 100 foreign contacts before revising his forms three times.” Investigators also had to consider Kushner’s “complicated business interests.” And Newsweek added that experts characterized “the sheer volume of his ongoing ties to foreign investors” as “enough to deny anyone access to classified information.”

The constraints on Kushner’s access could relate to this factor

According to The Washington Post, the reason for the limits on Jared Kushner’s intelligence access — why he received a “top secret” security clearance — remains unclear. But the Post theorizes that they could relate to the special counsel investigation. That investigation has examined Kushner’s interactions with foreign officials. A spokesman for the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III declined to comment when contacted by The Washington Post. (As usual.) The granting of Kushner’s permanent security clearance could indicate that he’s out of legal jeopardy with Mueller’s office. But it could also imply that the White House decided not to wait any longer and granted Kushner’s clearance itself.

The CIA grants — or doesn’t grant — SCI clearance

Security experts tell The Washington Post that the Trump White House could have adjudicated Jared Kushner’s security clearance itself. To do so, it would have looked at an internal Department of Justice database. There, it would make sure that Kushner isn’t the target of any federal investigation. However, Mueller’s investigators likely don’t disclose the identities of their targets in that database, according to the Post. The White House might have seen that there was no information about Kushner in the database, and then granted him a security clearance. But the CIA could feel “more uncomfortable with the absence of information about Mueller’s case,” the Post explains. And as Vox notes, it’s the CIA that grants SCI clearance, the kind that Kushner doesn’t’ have.


The limits could interfere with Jared Kushner’s ability to do his job

Jared Kushner doesn’t have the highest level of security clearance. So many people have wondered whether the limits on his access could interfere with his ability to do his job. Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, stated that Kushner “has access to all the materials and information he needs to do the domestic and international work the president has asked him to do.” But national security experts told the Post that the limits on Jared Kushner’s intelligence access would likely affect his work. Those limits “could complicate his ability to manage a portfolio that includes meeting with foreign leaders on Trump’s behalf and crafting a Middle East peace plan.”

The Trump administration’s handling of security clearance departs from norms

Donald Trump is known for his rule-breaking. So unsurprisingly, Newsweek theorized early in 2018 that under any other administration, Jared Kushner wouldn’t be allowed to work in the White House for a year without a security clearance. Typically, a person who couldn’t pass the investigation just wouldn’t have access to classified information. But Kushner could still access that information as he waited for his permanent security clearance. However, as Newsweek explained, “In the midst of his clearance controversy, Kushner’s role in the White House has been diminished.” Nonetheless, The Washington Post reports that it’s rare for someone to have the high level of interim security clearance that Kushner did for such a long time.


Read more: Revealed: Everything We Know About the Government’s Secret Airline

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