Officials at the White House have been working to devise a plan this week that would allow Jared Kushner to continue in his role handling sensitive foreign policy matters without forcing President Donald Trump to personally intervene and grant him access to classified information, people familiar with the situation say.
The scramble came after chief of staff John Kelly issued a memo a week ago declaring the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top secret information if their background investigation has been pending since before last June – a category Kushner falls into.
As President, Trump himself could grant any clearance to Kushner. But the President’s advisers have determined that taking that step would be drastic and cause deep rifts within the intelligence community and among Trump’s top aides.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, has also made it known that Trump’s personal intervention would post a problem and possibly undercut his authority in the West Wing.
Instead, aides have been searching for a solution that would allow Kushner to continue working on Middle East and China issues; not be viewed as violating Kelly’s mandate that interim clearances be revoked; and avoid requiring Trump’s personal intervention.
It is not clear what ideas or solutions have been formally proposed; however, one official speculated there may be a way to completely seal off the required information for Kushner’s slate of issues that would allow him to keep working on them without requiring a clearance.
The trickier issue is the matter of Trump’s daily intelligence briefing, which would require some level of clearance. Kushner is one of the few White House officials who regularly receives the daily roundup of issues that the intelligence community determines the President needs to be aware of each morning.
Multiple White House officials have said the complications with Kushner’s security clearance have only exacerbated his frustration with Kelly, who has privately disregarded Kushner and Ivanka Trump as unserious and meddling.
Trump, however, has given Kelly his full support in efforts to reform the White House’s system of security clearances, and has told his chief of staff that changes need to be made to bring the system into order, according to a person who has spoken to him about the matter. Kelly has interpreted that as a wide-ranging mandate that would include Kushner, a person familiar with the matter said.
After questions were raised whether the new clearance policy would affect Kushner, Kelly issued a statement this week saying he had “full 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,” Kelly said. “There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise.”