Kushner Resists Losing Access as Kelly Tackles Security Clearance Issues

click to enlarge Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser. - TOM BRENNER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Tom Brenner/The New York Times
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser.

© 2018 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, over who should be allowed to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, according to White House officials and others briefed on the matter.

Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the FBI during their background checks, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the clearances. The practice has drawn added scrutiny because of Rob Porter, the former staff secretary who resigned under pressure this month after domestic abuse allegations against him became public.

Porter’s post entailed handling and reviewing the flow of documents to and from the president, which routinely includes highly classified material. He had been allowed to continue in the job for more than a year with a stopgap clearance even though the FBI had informed the White House of the damaging accusations against him.

Kushner’s clearance has afforded him access to closely guarded information, including the presidential daily brief, the intelligence summary Trump receives every day, but it has not been made permanent, and his background investigation is still pending after 13 months serving in Trump’s inner circle.

Now Kelly, his job at risk and his reputation as an enforcer of order and discipline tarnished, is working to revamp the security clearance process, starting with an effort to strip officials who have interim clearances of their high-level access. In a memo issued on Friday, Kelly said he would revoke top clearances for anyone whose background check had been pending since June 1 or earlier.

Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that 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.

But Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees.

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