White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said chief of staff John Kelly’s new security clearance directive will not affect Jared Kushner’s work as a top White House staffer.
Sanders declined on Tuesday to get into Kushner’s clearance status but said “nothing that has taken place will affect the valuable work Jared is doing.”
Kelly said in a statement later Tuesday that he would not comment on security clearances but that he had expressed his confidence in Kushner’s ability to “continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico.”
“Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the President’s agenda. There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise,” Kelly’s statement said.
Nearly a year into the Trump administration, senior-level staffers – including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner – remained on interim clearances even as other senior advisers were granted full security access, according to information obtained by CNN from a US government official.
Kelly, under fire last week over the White House’s handling of domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide, ordered an overhaul of the security clearance process for current and incoming top administration officials.
In a five-page memo to the White House counsel, national security adviser and deputy chief of staff for operations, Kelly called for all background check investigations into potential top White House officials to be delivered directly to the White House Counsel’s office by the FBI and for the FBI to share “significant derogatory information” uncovered in the course of investigations into senior staff with the White House within 48 hours, according to a copy of the memo released by the White House.
Kelly also directed his staff to discontinue top level security clearances for any staffer whose background investigation or adjudication process has been pending since before last June. He also requested “status reports” on pending background investigations “at least once a month.”
Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s lawyer, said the senior official “has done more than what is expected of him in this process.”
“The new policy announced by General Kelly will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President,” Lowell added.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.