- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The security clearance of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, has been downgraded, according to two people told of the decision.

Mr. Kushner, husband of the president’s daughter Ivanka and a trusted aide, had been working with an interim clearance at the “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” level for more than a year. Due to the downgraded status, he is only authorized to access information at the lower “secret” level, according to a White House official and a person familiar with the decision, both of whom spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The move came after White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly ordered that White House officials with interim clearances pending since before June 1, 2017, lose their access to the nation’s deepest secrets if they hadn’t received permanent clearances by last Friday. A White House official confirmed to the AP that Mr. Kelly’s order has been implemented.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment on Mr. Kushner’s clearance status Tuesday, but said he will continue to perform his job in the West Wing.

“He’s a valued member of the team and he will continue to do the important work that he’s been doing since he’s started in the administration,” she said.

Mr. Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that Mr. Kushner “has done more than what is expected of him in this process.” Mr. Lowell said the changes would “not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president.”

The president has delegated to the 37-year-old Mr. Kushner some of the most sensitive jobs in the White House, including his role as a negotiator/envoy in the Middle East, where he has been working to restart peace talks. He is a longtime friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

With a top-secret clearance, Mr. Kushner would have had access to information about covert operations and intelligence sources and methods. With a secret clearance, he would still have access to intelligence assessments, but not necessarily the information behind why the U.S. knows what is being shared with him.

The move is also expected to prevent Mr. Kushner from having access to the President’s Daily Brief, a summary of global hot spots and highly sensitive national security details.

The development set off speculation that Mr. Kushner’s days in the White House might be numbered. Also on Tuesday, the White House announced the departure of a top Kushner aide, deputy communications director Josh Raffel, the third departure of a Kushner ally in the West Wing in as many months.

The president could have reversed Mr. Kelly’s decision, but deferred to his chief of staff.

“I will let General Kelly make that decision and he’s going to do what’s right for the country, and I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference on Friday.

Mr. Kushner reportedly reviewed the highly secret daily briefs and has been in the room for some of Mr. Trump’s most consequential domestic and foreign policy decisions.

In addition to Mr. Kushner, at least two dozen other White House staffers are believed to have been working without permanent security clearances for most of the past year.

The issue was highlighted earlier this month with the resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who quit amid allegations of abuse by his two ex-wives. Mr. Porter also had not received final security clearance while the FBI and an internal White House office were completing background checks and reviews of his status.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that officials in at least four countries had privately discussed ways they could manipulate Mr. Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.

The nations included the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, The Post reported, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

The newspaper said it was unclear if any of those countries had acted on the discussions, but said Mr. Kushner’s contacts with foreign government officials had raised concerns within the White House and were among the reasons Kushner had not yet been able to obtain a permanent security clearance.

Mr. Kushner’s contacts with foreign officials have been a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a former U.S. official told the AP.

Mr. Mueller’s team has asked people about the protocols that Mr. Kushner used when he set up conversations with foreign leaders.

The Kushner Cos., for example, had attempted to raise money for its struggling 666 Fifth Avenue skyscraper in New York from a large Chinese insurer with ties to the ruling Communist Party. Those talks ended after lawmakers and government ethics experts expressed worry that China could be using a deal to curry favor with the White House.

Mr. Kushner stepped down as CEO of his family’s real estate company to join the administration.

This article is based on wire service reports.

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