You know what the weirdest thing about this is? Trump could grant him a full clearance at any time. If I understand the law correctly, as head of the executive branch he’s entitled to share classified information with whomever he likes, no matter how untrustworthy and prone to blackmail that person is. Does he know what? If so, why doesn’t he solve Jared’s problem for him by granting him a clearance?
All I can think is that POTUS knows how poorly that decision would be received and was happy until recently with the status quo. If Trump grants Kushner a full clearance without the FBI’s endorsement, Democrats might go nuts. Better to leave his status unsettled with an interim clearance; that way, if critics complain about Jared accessing classified info despite not having been cleared yet, Trump and Kelly can turn around and say, “Yet. He hasn’t been cleared yet. He will be. It’s a process!” But the Rob Porter fiasco made that untenable . Kelly’s been sufficiently damaged by it, and by the reports of *lots* of other Trump aides having their clearances held up, that he can’t let people linger indefinitely with interim clearances anymore.
Which means, unless the FBI suddenly surprises everyone by clearing Kushner after all this time, Trump’s going to need to make a move. Does he send Kushner home to New York, as I’m sure Kelly would like, or does he override the FBI’s misgivings by granting the princeling a clearance himself?
In a memo issued on Friday, Mr. Kelly said he would revoke top clearances for anyone whose background check had been pending since June 1 or earlier, and review such clearances every month thereafter.
Mr. Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access, the officials said. In the talks, the officials say, Mr. Kushner has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit.
But Mr. Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Mr. Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees, saying only that the president’s son-in-law will still have all the access he needs to do his job under the new system.
No big deal, said Sarah Sanders yesterday. Jared can do his job without a security clearance if need be. Uh … what? He’s a lead U.S. diplomat on the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, with more influence over the president than Rex Tillerson or Nikki Haley have. How do you do that job without seeing sensitive material? There’s no way says Dan Pfeiffer, who used to have Kushner’s job:
Kushner and I had the same title and he sits in my old office. There are only three options:
1. Sanders is lying
2. Kelly is lying and Kushner is keeping his interim clearance
3. Kushner’s new portfolio includes staring at the wall from 9-5 https://t.co/f7hxaSan4v
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) February 20, 2018
Suggesting that Kushner can fulfill his duties without a clearance, i.e. without needing to see classified information, raises an obvious question: Why does he keep requesting so much classified information? A source told WaPo a few days ago that “apart from staff on the National Security Council, he issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee.” Why? Why does he need access to the President’s Daily Brief if his job, supposedly, is now mainly focused on Israeli and the Palestinians? Remember, this is a guy who:
— has seen his personal debt climb by millions of dollars since joining the White House;
— is being investigated by Bob Mueller not just for his role in Russiagate but for his financial dealings;
— has had to revise his disclosure forms repeatedly since he first submitted them.
He’s as fat a target for blackmail as you could hope to find in the West Wing (apart from the president himself), which no doubt explains why the FBI won’t sign off on him. If they recommend him for a full clearance and he’s caught later passing classified information to some extortionist, they don’t want to have to explain why they greenlit him. After all the media hype about seamy nationalists like Steve Bannon infiltrating the White House under a Trump presidency, what an irony it would be if the rich Democrat from Manhattan, Jared, ended up being one of Trump’s biggest scandals.
By the way, at the height of the Porter coverage last week, when John Kelly was twisting in the wind and seemed like he might lose his job, some stories about him noted as asides that certain unnamed enemies of his in the West Wing were using the Porter mess opportunistically to try to turn Trump against him. Any doubt now who those unnamed enemies were? It’s not just Kushner who has it in for Kelly, reportedly; he’s also made an enemy of Ivanka by privately scoffing at her family-leave plan. It wouldn’t surprise me if the source who told WaPo that Kushner has an unusually voracious appetite for classified info is a Kelly ally, if not Kelly himself. How POTUS is going to manage a situation in which his chief of staff and his family are waging war against each other in the media shadows, lord only knows.