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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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 582576

Reported Deaths: 7284
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1208311715
Ramsey50357867
Dakota45046442
Anoka40774432
Washington26338278
Stearns21901220
St. Louis17502302
Scott16980124
Wright15722135
Olmsted1309797
Sherburne1139484
Carver1031645
Clay807492
Rice7952106
Blue Earth739241
Crow Wing651888
Kandiyohi647282
Chisago581051
Otter Tail567578
Benton560197
Goodhue470872
Mower460332
Douglas459574
Winona448450
Itasca417953
McLeod417258
Morrison413660
Isanti408262
Nobles406748
Beltrami387358
Steele381015
Polk379567
Becker375449
Lyon357650
Carlton340353
Freeborn339529
Pine323521
Nicollet320943
Brown303040
Mille Lacs297152
Le Sueur285322
Todd277431
Cass265528
Meeker250140
Waseca235721
Martin227731
Roseau205019
Wabasha20313
Hubbard183341
Dodge18133
Renville178043
Redwood170836
Houston169215
Cottonwood162721
Fillmore153810
Pennington153319
Wadena152321
Chippewa151338
Faribault149919
Kanabec142424
Sibley140910
Aitkin133136
Watonwan13009
Rock127219
Jackson121211
Pipestone113826
Yellow Medicine113520
Pope10806
Murray10559
Swift103918
Stevens88511
Marshall87417
Clearwater85716
Koochiching81314
Lake80619
Wilkin79812
Lac qui Parle74922
Big Stone5934
Lincoln5733
Grant5648
Mahnomen5408
Norman5379
Unassigned48893
Kittson48122
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3183
Cook1560

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 364579

Reported Deaths: 5902
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57228619
Linn20701333
Scott19754239
Black Hawk15746307
Woodbury15087228
Johnson1439083
Dubuque13322209
Dallas1109597
Pottawattamie11036166
Story1054248
Warren572988
Clinton551692
Cerro Gordo535689
Sioux512474
Webster510892
Marshall480875
Muscatine473899
Des Moines451466
Wapello4283122
Buena Vista424140
Jasper413070
Plymouth400179
Lee372355
Marion360075
Jones296857
Henry290437
Carroll284752
Bremer282460
Crawford264340
Boone262334
Benton254955
Washington253050
Dickinson247343
Mahaska229250
Jackson220742
Clay214725
Kossuth214764
Tama208871
Delaware208040
Winneshiek196433
Page192121
Buchanan190431
Cedar188823
Fayette184441
Hardin184443
Wright183336
Hamilton179249
Harrison179173
Clayton168756
Butler163834
Mills161321
Madison160319
Floyd159542
Cherokee158338
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154633
Allamakee150351
Iowa147924
Hancock146434
Winnebago140831
Cass137654
Grundy135932
Calhoun135813
Emmet133740
Jefferson132135
Shelby130537
Sac130019
Appanoose128047
Louisa127849
Union127632
Mitchell125642
Chickasaw123615
Guthrie120729
Humboldt118726
Franklin116421
Palo Alto112123
Howard104122
Montgomery102737
Unassigned10070
Clarke99624
Keokuk95331
Monroe95028
Ida90334
Adair86232
Pocahontas85422
Monona82830
Davis81324
Osceola77916
Greene77610
Lucas76823
Worth7348
Taylor65612
Fremont6219
Decatur6059
Van Buren55618
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