Officials really didn’t want to grant Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner top secret security clearance, according to a new report from NBC. His clearance was rejected twice by two career White House security specialists due to his FBI background check, which raised concerns that he was being influenced by foreign governments. Kushner was eventually granted the clearance by a higher up official, according to two sources.
The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival.
Kushner’s background check apparently raised concerns about his family’s business, as well as his foreign contacts, travel, and meetings held during the campaign, according to the sources. Kline granted his clearance anyway.
But Kusher was aiming for an even higher level of clearance, according to sources. White House security officials can grant clearance levels up to top secret, but for “sensitive compartmented information,” or SCI, the CIA must be involved. According to NBC, “That material makes up the government’s most sensitive secrets, including transcripts of intercepted foreign communications, CIA source reporting and other intelligence seemingly important for Kushner, whose job portfolio covers the Mideast and Mexico.”
When Kline approved Kushner’s top secret clearance, his file went to the CIA for approval on SCI.
After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions balked, two of the people familiar with the matter said. One called over to the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top secret clearance, the sources said. Top secret information is defined as material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries.
The CIA has reportedly still not granted Kushner’s SCI clearance, meaning that he doesn’t have access to key information on the Middle East, where he’s supposedly helping to negotiate a peace process between Israel and Palestine. Trump has the power to grant Kushner access to the information if he decides it’s necessary.
“The CIA does not comment on individual security clearances,” CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett told NBC.
“What you are reporting is what all of us feared,” said Brad Moss, a lawyer who represents people seeking security clearances, told NBC. “The normal line adjudicators looked at the FBI report…saw the foreign influence concerns, but were overruled by the quasi-political supervisor.”
Last year, the Washington Post reported that foreign officials in a number of countries had discussed ways to influence Kushner. Those countries included United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico.
Kline approved at least 30 top secret clearances that overruled previous decisions by bureaucrats.
The House Oversight Committee, now run by Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, announced yesterday that it will look into how Kushner’s security clearance was approved.