Sources: Mueller probe stymies Kushner security clearance

Jared Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance in part because of special counsel Robert Mueller's...

Posted: Feb 23, 2018 9:44 AM
Updated: Feb 23, 2018 9:44 AM

Jared Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance in part because of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, is unlikely to obtain the full clearance as long as the special counsel's probe is ongoing, one of the sources said.

Kushner's application for a top-level security clearance has been held up for over a year in part because it cannot be completed while the special counsel's team continues to probe Kushner's contacts with Russians and his financial dealings with foreigners, the sources said. During that time, Kushner has been able to access the government's most sensitive secrets thanks to an interim security clearance. But that access could soon be cut off -- unless Trump steps in with a waiver.

There is no indication that Mueller is close to wrapping up his investigation, and an impending crackdown by White House chief of staff John Kelly aimed at restricting access to classified information for those with long-pending interim clearances is expected to nix or downgrade Kushner's interim security clearance. The combination of factors could leave Kushner without a security clearance for months to come, even as he tackles sensitive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States' relationship with Mexico.

The situation is especially complicated for Kushner because the FBI isn't sharing information with the White House that would typically be relevant in a background investigation for security clearance. That's because sharing such information could compromise the special counsel's probe.

Kelly memo

Prompted by the latest scandal engulfing the West Wing -- domestic abuse allegations against a senior White House aide with a yearlong top-level interim security clearance -- Kelly released a five-page memo last Friday directing aides to "discontinue" interim security clearances for individuals whose security clearance applications have been pending since June 1 or earlier. He also ordered access to highly classified information be limited for the remaining aides with interim clearances.

The White House has declined to say how many officials will be affected by the measure. White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said during Thursday's briefing that he "can't get into specifics regarding individuals' security clearances or numbers."

Kushner's attorney has acknowledged that Kushner's security clearance application has yet to be approved and said "my inquiries to those involved again have confirmed that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner's level whose process is delayed."

But question marks still loom over the future of Kushner's access to classified information.

The White House has declined to confirm whether Kushner's clearance would be revoked on Friday, with Kelly saying only that he has "full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio."

Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, also declined to elaborate when pressed by CNN, saying only via a statement that the new policy "will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President."

Still, Kelly's memo signals Kushner would be swept up in the interim security clearance revocation given that the FBI began its background check investigation into the senior aide prior to June 1.

"Effective one week from today, discontinue any Top Secret or SCI-level interim clearances for individuals whose investigations or adjudications have been pending since June 1, 2017 or before," Kelly wrote in the memo.

Bypassing clearance process

Still, Kushner's security clearance woes could be swept away by his father-in-law, who as president can bypass the clearance process and grant anyone access to classified information. There is no known precedent for a president to make such a decision for anyone seeking a security clearance, according to security experts.

The fate of Kushner's security clearance was not the only uncertainty that hung in the White House in the wake of Kelly's memo last week.

The memo -- which Kelly addressed to only three top aides -- came as a surprise to most White House officials, who learned of Kelly's plans through media reports, two White House officials told CNN.

Combined with the initial surprise, Kelly's memo has fueled uncertainty in the West Wing about how the memo's directives will impact daily operations. Less than 48 hours before the key directive about interim clearances was set to take effect, the officials said they and their colleagues had yet to receive any additional guidance on the memo's implementation.

Beyond the clean-cut revocation of interim security clearances for those with applications pending since June 1 or prior, White House officials have fretted over how Kelly plans to "limit access to certain highly classified information for those individuals working with interim clearance status," as laid out in the memo. It remains unclear how Kelly will limit access to highly classified information.

Other White House officials

It's also not clear whether other White House officials whose actions have been scrutinized by Mueller have been unable to get a decision on their security clearance applications.

White House communications director Hope Hicks, whose role in drafting a misleading statement about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower has drawn Mueller's scrutiny, obtained a full Top Secret and sensitive compartmented information, or SCI, security clearances -- the highest levels of access -- in November or earlier, according to information obtained by CNN from a US government official. Unlike Hicks, Kushner has drawn Mueller's interest over his interactions with foreign officials, including Russians, and for his financial dealings with foreigners during the transition.

Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents security clearance applicants, said ongoing criminal investigations can derail security clearance applications, even if the applicant is not a target of the investigation.

"I have definitely had cases over the years where there was a parallel criminal investigation ... that was happening at the same time as there was a clearance investigation," Zaid said. "The security adjudicators would delay rendering a decision pending some outcome of the criminal case at least to the extent that it applies to that individual."

As of November, White House counsel Don McGahn -- who has also been interviewed by Mueller's team -- had received a Top Secret clearance, but was still working off interim access to SCI.

More than 100 White House officials were still working on interim clearances in November, according to the information provided to CNN. But a White House official with knowledge of the matter said a slew of officials saw their clearances approved in late December and early January.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 76°
Florence
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Fayetteville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 79°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14986

Reported Deaths: 566
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2033111
Jefferson163091
Montgomery127433
Marshall6509
Tuscaloosa55812
Lee51032
Franklin4676
Shelby44719
Tallapoosa40063
Butler35912
Chambers33724
Madison3024
Baldwin2749
Elmore2707
Walker2391
Etowah23811
DeKalb2263
Dallas2063
Coffee2061
Lowndes19310
Sumter1936
Morgan1761
Houston1724
Autauga1683
Calhoun1463
Pike1450
Choctaw1444
Colbert1422
Marengo1416
Russell1370
Lauderdale1352
Bullock1333
Hale1324
Randolph1247
Wilcox1187
Marion11410
Barbour1131
Clarke1092
St. Clair1041
Pickens934
Greene914
Talladega912
Chilton871
Dale850
Cullman780
Limestone770
Jackson712
Winston670
Covington671
Washington655
Henry642
Macon622
Crenshaw602
Bibb591
Blount491
Lawrence430
Escambia433
Perry350
Geneva350
Coosa341
Monroe332
Cherokee332
Conecuh281
Clay272
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 20535

Reported Deaths: 338
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson463258
Shelby445194
Trousdale13924
Rutherford102922
Sumner82745
Bledsoe6081
Hamilton60114
Williamson52210
Tipton4273
Lake4100
Robertson3891
Putnam3805
Wilson3638
Out of TN3394
Knox3365
Bedford2694
Montgomery2483
Rhea1970
Hardeman1880
Madison1732
Loudon1360
McMinn13514
Cheatham1100
Cumberland1091
Fayette1072
Dickson1040
Macon1013
Bradley981
Blount823
Maury790
Unassigned750
Washington730
Sevier722
Coffee660
Wayne630
Sullivan612
Gibson601
Monroe562
Lauderdale561
Hickman530
Dyer480
Greene472
Franklin461
Anderson391
Marion361
DeKalb340
Grundy321
Hawkins312
Smith301
Marshall291
Haywood292
Henry290
Carroll271
Jefferson270
White270
Weakley260
Hamblen262
Meigs250
Lincoln250
Lawrence240
Obion241
Warren210
Overton210
Cocke200
Carter191
Morgan170
Cannon170
Campbell171
Jackson170
Crockett161
Roane150
Johnson150
Polk140
Henderson130
Perry130
Humphreys131
McNairy120
Giles120
Chester120
Sequatchie110
Scott110
Hardin112
Fentress110
Stewart90
Claiborne80
Houston70
Benton71
Clay60
Grainger60
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Moore30
Unicoi30
Pickett30
Lewis30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events