Report Says Trump Ordered Kelly to Give Kushner Top-Secret Clearance

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Jared Kushner, left, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser, prior to their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on Feb. 27, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

(CN) – President Donald Trump last year ordered former chief of staff John Kelly to give top-secret security clearance to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a demand that Kelly documented in a memo, according to media reports on Thursday.

Citing unnamed sources knowledgeable on the matter, The New York Times reported that Trump “ordered” Kelly to grant clearance to Kushner despite concerns from Kelly, former White House counsel Don McGahn and intelligence officials.

It was previously reported that Kushner had difficulty receiving top-secret clearance due to his contacts with foreign government officials. Media reports last year claimed that officials in the United Arab Emirates, China and Israel discussed ways of taking advantage of Kushner by exploiting his business dealings and lack of political experience.

Kelly wrote in a memo that he was “ordered” to give top-secret security clearance to Kushner, according to The Times. McGahn also wrote a memo advising against the action. Kushner was granted top-secret clearance in May 2018 following a background check.

“In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone,” said Peter Mirijanian, spokesman for Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell in a statement on Thursday. “That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”

Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka have both denied the president played a role in helping Kushner obtain security clearance. President Trump said in a January interview that he did not order anyone to grant Kushner clearance, a message echoed by Ivanka in an interview in early February.

In President Trump’s first year in office, Kushner was granted an interim security clearance that allowed him to view top-secret intelligence and attend classified briefings. Kelly then limited interim clearances from viewing top-secret information in February 2018, which caused Kushner to drop from “Top Secret” to “Secret” information access.

Kelly’s policy shift prevented Kushner from viewing intelligence gained from spies and he lost access to the president’s daily intelligence briefing.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight Committee said in a statement Thursday evening that the report “indicates that President Trump may have granted access to our country’s most sensitive classified information to his son-in-law against the advice of career staff, directly contradicting the President’s public denials that he played any role.”

Cummings’ committee has already launched an investigation into the security clearance process and said it is waiting for documents.

“To date, the White House has not produced a single document or scheduled a single interview,” Cummings said. “The Committee expects full compliance with its requests as soon as possible, or it may become necessary to consider alternative means to compel compliance.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement that his committee is also investigating.

“The revelation that President Trump personally intervened to overrule White House security officials and the Intelligence Community to grant a Top Secret security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest indicator of the President’s utter disregard for our national security and for the men and women who sacrifice so much every day to keep us safe,” Schiff said late Thursday. “There is no nepotism exception for background investigations.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment on the report.

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