Friday, 22 June, 2018

Trump says security clearance process is actually too rigorous

Senior adviser Jared Kushner attends a roundtable in the Roosevelt Room of the White House In our opinion: The government must streamline security clearance processes
Becky Salazar | 24 February, 2018, 11:49

The disclosure marked the latest development in an ongoing drama over Kushner's clearance, which has been held up amid questions about his background check. Kelly expressed frustration with Kushner's access to classified material on an extended interim clearance, according to the official. Losing clearance would likely greatly inhibit Kushner's work, given his portfolio as a senior adviser on policy toward China, Mexico and the Middle East, among other topics.

Kelly, in a memo released last week, had set a Friday deadline for halting access to top-secret information for those whose applications have been pending since June 1 or earlier. The matter could complicate his path to a full security clearance, a process that is already in flux under chief of staff John Kelly.

Like Kushner, Porter operated under an interim clearance for more than a year.

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 USA government official. He did not specify the source of the information that officials were examining, the three people said.

Ordinarily, security-clearance experts said, the failure to completely disclose all contacts would jeopardize an applicant's chances of obtaining final clearance. The phone call was first reported by The Washington Post.

The security clearance issue drew more scrutiny after White House staff secretary Rob Porter's ex-wives accused him of abuse and he was forced to resign.

More than 100 White House officials were still working on interim clearances in November, according to the information provided to CNN.

But in an interview with the Post last summer discussing this topic, Alan Dershowitz, a prominent scholar of constitutional and criminal law who knew Kushner when he was a student at Harvard, said the FBI's clearance process was a traditional procedural hurdle - not a legal one.

Among those White House members working under an interim clearance is Kushner, who has reportedly pushed back against the new rules. 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. "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", Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said this week.

"Gen. Kelly respects Jared a lot", Trump said. "I will let the general, who's right here, make that call".

"I have no doubt he will make the right decision", Trump said.

President Donald Trump was asked whether his son-in-law Jared Kushner will be allowed to continue working at the White House under an interim security clearance.

"It's a broken system", he said.

Porter resigned on February 7, the same week multiple news outlets ran stories in which both of his ex-wives accused him of physical abuse, including one who offered a photo of a black eye she says he gave her. "There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise", he said.

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