Officials from at least four countries have discussed ways they could use Jared Kushner’s intricate business arrangements, lack of experience and financial woes to manipulate President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The paper reported that it is unclear, based on current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, that the countries – - Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates – acted on the conversations.
The revelation is the latest in a series that call into question Kushner’s ability to work in the White House given his complex business ties.
CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that Kushner has been stripped of his access to the nation’s top secrets after chief of staff John Kelly mandated changes to the security clearance system. Kushner had been working on a temporary clearance, but, under the new system, aides who previously had “top secret” interim clearances saw their access downgrade to the less sensitive “secret” designation.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell, declined to comment on the story.
“We will not respond substantively to unnamed sources peddling secondhand hearsay with rank speculation who continue to leak inaccurate information,” Mirijanian said.
According to the Post, national security adviser H.R. McMaster told his deputies in spring of 2017 that he wanted all the intelligence reports on conversations where foreign leaders discussed interactions with senior Trump officials, including Kushner. The order came after McMaster learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials without coordinating with the National Security Council.
Kushner – while on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a meeting on prison reform – declined to respond to repeated CNN questions about his security clearance and The Washington Post report. Kushner’s meeting had been scheduled long before news about his security clearances broke, and according to a source in the room, the story did not come up during the meeting.
Top White House officials were worried Kushner was “naive and being tricked” by foreign officials, one former White House official told the Post.
Before stepping into the White House, Kushner worked at the CEO of his family’s real estate and development company, Kushner Companies. The extensive network and debt from the company, according to the Post, was also seen as leverage foreign officials talked about in efforts to manipulate Kushner.
Officials from the White House and National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
The news of foreign interest in Kushner’s business ties and financial woes comes after CNN reported special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his probe beyond Kushner’s contacts with Russia into his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition.
CNN also reported that one reason Kushner has been unable to obtain full security clearance is because of Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
One source familiar with the matter told CNN that Kushner would be unlikely to obtain full clearance as long as the special counsel’s probe is ongoing.
In response to questions about the delay in background checks, the FBI has added more agents to deal with the backlog of applications.
A source familiar with the matter says the FBI is expected to wrap up the Kushner background check within a month, but the source said the FBI would hand the findings to the White House for it to make the ultimate decision on his clearance.
CNN’s Pamela Brown, Phil Mattingly, Shimon Prokupecz, Kara Scannell and Gloria Borger contributed to this report.