White House officials Jared Kushner and John Kelly are privately feuding over Kushner’s access to classified information despite having only an interim security clearance, according to a report in The New York Times.
The report said Kushner is concerned that Kelly, the chief of staff, had targeted him specifically with a recent directive to overhaul the White House clearance system.
Citing White House officials and others briefed on the matter, the Times reported Tuesday that Kushner is pushing back on giving up access to classified information. Kushner’s security clearance has provided the senior White House adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump with highly classified information – including the Presidential Daily Brief or “PDB” – despite the fact that he lacks permanent clearance, according to the Times.
Nearly a year into the Trump administration, some senior-level staffers – including daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, 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.
The White House security clearance process has been under scrutiny after former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was forced to resign when allegations of abuse from his previous spouses surfaced. Kelly, under fire over the White House’s handling of the domestic abuse allegations against Porter, ordered an overhaul of the security clearance process for current and incoming top administration officials.
In a five-page memo, 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.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said earlier Tuesday that Kelly’s new security clearance directive would not affect Kushner’s work as a top White House staffer. Sanders declined to get into Kushner’s clearance status but said “nothing that has taken place will affect the valuable work Jared is doing.”
In a statement later Tuesday, Kelly said 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.
Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s lawyer, said Kushner “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.