Democratic lawmakers have vowed to investigate the White House’s security clearance process, after a report that President Donald Trump had personally intervened to help his son-in-law Jared Kushner obtain higher clearance.
Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives intelligence committee, said his committee would be redoubling efforts, together with the House oversight committee, to investigate how the Trump administration had been granting security clearance to its members.
“The revelation that President Trump personally intervened to overrule White House security officials and the intelligence community to grant a top-secret security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest indicator of the president’s utter disregard for our national security and for the men and women who sacrifice so much every day to keep us safe,” Mr Schiff said.
“There is no nepotism exception for background investigations. Worse still was the White House’s oft-repeated lie that Kushner had been granted the clearance at the conclusion of a normal process.”
On Thursday The New York Times reported that Mr Trump had “ordered” his former chief-of-staff, John Kelly, to grant Mr Kushner a top-secret security clearance, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and despite objections from both Mr Kelly and then-White House counsel Don McGahn, who both documented the incident in contemporaneous notes, the newspaper reported.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Abbe Lowell, Mr Kushner’s lawyer, did not directly contradict The New York Times’ reporting. Instead, in a statement, he noted that multiple White House and security clearance officials had previously stated that Mr Kushner’s security clearance had been handled by the standard procedure.
“In 2018 White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone. That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time,” Mr Mirijanian said.
The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Mr Trump and Mr Lowell had both previously stated that Mr Kushner was granted top-secret clearance through the normal procedure — an assertion also repeated by the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka.
Mr Kushner received the top-secret clearance last year after months of delays. It was not clear what caused the hold-up.
Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, called The New York Times’ report “pretty outrageous”.
“Our national security doesn’t have a friends-and-family exception,” he said on Twitter.
The revelations about Mr Kushner come after three days of testimony on Capitol Hill by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former lawyer and fixer.
In a public hearing before the House oversight committee, Mr Cohen gave the names of Trump Organization members who knew about business development plans for a Trump Tower Moscow project that continued through the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chair of the House oversight committee, has said he is likely to call additional individuals before the committee to testify about Mr Cohen’s allegations.
That may include two of Mr Trump’s sons, who continue to work at the Trump Organization, as well as Ivanka Trump, who is a member of the administration.
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