Trump ordered Kushner be given security clearance despite concerns — report
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Trump ordered Kushner be given security clearance despite concerns — report

NYT says chief of staff John Kelly wrote memo saying president had demanded high-level access for his son-in-law, overriding questions regarding foreign ties, including to Israel

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (R) and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow (2nd R) take part in a meeting between US President Donald Trump and China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on February 22, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (R) and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow (2nd R) take part in a meeting between US President Donald Trump and China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on February 22, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump last year ordered officials to grant top-secret security clearance to his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to a report published Thursday by The New York Times.

Kushner was granted the high-level clearance last May after a lengthy background check.

The Times, citing anonymous sources, said Trump demanded Kushner’s clearance despite the concerns of intelligence officials, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and then-White House counsel Don McGahn.

The newspaper said Kelly wrote in an internal memo that he had been “ordered” to give top-secret clearance to Kushner. McGahn wrote a memo in which he advised against such clearance.

White House communications director Bill Shine (L), chief of staff John Kelly (C), and senior adviser Jared Kushner wait during a meeting between US President Donald Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office of the White House on December 11, 2018. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

Kushner, who spent this week in the Middle East trying to drum up support for the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, has reportedly been scrutinized over his and his family’s business ties and contacts with foreign governments and entities.

According to the Times, citing multiple sources familiar with the case, US intelligence and law enforcement authorities had questioned contacts Kushner had related to Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, holding up his clearance for over a year.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 22, 2018. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem/Flash90)

Kushner and his family have long-standing personal ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his family has real estate ties with a number of  companies in Israel and other countries.

In February 2018, The Washington Post reported that officials in Israel, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Mexico discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, citing current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

Like Trump, Kushner comes to government with little policy experience and a wide web of business interests around the world.

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell, responded Thursday to the Times story with a statement, saying: “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.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during an opioid and drug abuse listening session on March 29, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. From left are, former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment on the Times story.

Trump told Times reporters in January that he “was never involved” with Kushner’s security clearance.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and Kushner’s wife, said in February that the president did not play a role in granting security clearances to her or Kushner.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said Thursday that the Times report “indicates that President Trump may have granted access to our country’s most sensitive classified information to his son-in-law against the advice of career staff, directly contradicting the President’s public denials that he played any role.”

Cummings, D-Md., noted that his committee has launched an investigation into the security clearance process and requested documents and interviews relating to Kushner’s clearance.

“To date, the White House has not produced a single document or scheduled a single interview,” Cummings said in a statement. “The Committee expects full compliance with its requests as soon as possible, or it may become necessary to consider alternative means to compel compliance.”

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