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Dems Vie for Criminal Probe of Kushner in Security-Clearance Saga

Two Democratic lawmakers called Tuesday for the Department of Justice to investigate the omissions White House adviser Jared Kushner made in his applications for top-secret security clearance.

WASHINGTON (CN) – Two Democratic lawmakers called Tuesday for the Department of Justice to investigate the omissions White House adviser Jared Kushner made in his applications for top-secret security clearance.

U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, left, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner attends the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Monday, May 14, 2018. Amid deadly clashes along the Israeli-Palestinian border, President Donald Trump's top aides and supporters on Monday celebrated the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem as a campaign promised fulfilled. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Representatives Ted Lieu and Don Beyer, of California and Virginia, respectively, said their request for a criminal investigation was spurred by a Feb. 28 report in the New York Times. 

The report, citing several anonymous sources briefed on the matter, suggests President Donald Trump “personally intervened” in the application process for his son-in-law and ordered then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to grant Kushner clearance despite multiple warnings not to.

Trump’s directive was also documented in a contemporaneous internal memo by Kelly and was also mentioned in a separate memo from White House Counsel Donald McGahn, according to the New York Times.

McGahn’s memo reportedly enumerated various concerns about granting the secret clearance to Kushner and ultimately advised against it.

Still unclear, however, is what concerned McGahn or Kelly specifically.

Historically, Kushner’s ties to foreign real estate investors have garnered significant criticism and concern in light of his diplomatic role within the White House.

As the president’s son-in-law, Kushner’s position has also generated questions over nepotism and the propriety of his appointment inside the White House.

Addressed to Attorney General William Barr, Lieu and Beyer’s referral letter is dated March 4 but only made public Tuesday. It contends that both Kushner and Ivanka Trump “apparently lied” about the clearance process over a series of interviews.

As to Ivanka Trump, the letter quotes her as telling “The View” in a Feb. 8 interview: “The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance – zero.”

“Lying to the public, though disgraceful and unethical, is not ipso facto a criminal act,” the letter says, but it is illegal to lie on a security-clearance questionnaire. The federal crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.

“It was previously reported that Mr. Kushner had to submit at least three separate addenda detailing over 100 omissions, including the infamous June 2016 meeting he attended in Trump Tower where Russian agents offered ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Hillary Clinton,” Lieu and Beyer wrote.

They also note that Kushner failed to report meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Such omissions are not only illegal but a threat to national security, the lawmakers said.

The House Judiciary Committee announced the acceleration Monday of its own investigations into 81 associates and entities associated with the president’s administration. Kushner was also included in that committee’s request for records, which Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, believes may uncover potential wrongdoing by the White House.

Representative Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, also indicated this week that he plans on investigating security-clearance concerns surrounding Kushner.

While multiple committees are taking on their own investigative loads, Lieu and Beyer said the DOJ could play a “strong role” in a concurrent criminal probe.

“The threats posed by ill-gotten security clearances are not theoretical. As the Washington Post reports, the U.S. intelligence community has intercepted numerous communications from foreign nationals discussing how they could manipulate Mr. Kushner, ‘taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties he had at the time and his lack of foreign policy experience,” the letter states.

The White House did not immediately return request for comment.

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