President Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner — the man the president tasked with bringing peace to the Middle East, as well as soothing relations with China and Mexico — has had his security clearance downgraded, meaning he will no longer have access to top security information.
Kushner and other White House staffers learned last week that their "top secret" clearances were being downgraded to "secret," Politico and CNN reported Tuesday. The staffers subject to the downgrade had been operating on interim security clearances, but now will not have access to the government's most sensitive information.
An unnamed source told CNN that Kushner is accepting the decision and will not ask Trump for an exception.
Officials from at least four foreign countries have also discussed how they could manipulate Kushner using his lack of foreign policy experience and his business relationships, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Unnamed officials expressed concern to the Post that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” by foreign officials, and said his contacts with foreign governments contributed to his inability to get a permanent security clearance.
A spokesperson for Kushner told BuzzFeed News that "no concerns were raised" in his clearance application, and that "Mr. Kushner has done more than what is expected of him in this process." The spokesperson also said security clearance delays are "not uncommon" in a new presidential administration.
"As General Kelly himself said, the new clearance policy will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president," Kushner's spokesperson added.
But government security expert Steven Aftergood told BuzzFeed News Tuesday that there is a "vast difference" between a top secret security clearance and the lesser clearance Kushner and others received in the downgrade. Secret clearance, Aftergood said, may provide access to sensitive information, "but it is typically several steps removed from intelligence source material."
"It is hard to imagine how anyone could function as a White House presidential adviser without a TS/SCI clearance," Aftergood added, referring to the highest level of security clearance. "Over time, it will become untenable."
The White House did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
Earlier this month, reports revealed that numerous White House staffers, including Kushner, were still working with interim security clearances. The issue gained renewed attention after domestic violence allegations surfaced against White House aide Rob Porter, who was among those with interim top secret clearance. Porter resigned in response to the allegations.
Following the Porter allegations, White House chief of staff John Kelly issued a memo telling his staff to end top security clearance for personnel whose background checks had been pending since June.
“Effective one week 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,” the memo stated.
Trump has the authority to give Kushner top secret clearance. However, last week Trump told reporters that, while his son-in-law had "done an outstanding job," the issue of his security clearance was up to Kelly.
"It's a broken system, and it shouldn't take this long," Trump said of the process. "You know how, how many people are on that list, people with not a problem in the world. So that'll be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot and General Kelly will make that call. I won't make that call. I will let the general, who's right here, make that call."
Chris Geidner contributed to this report.