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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Jared Kushner’s security clearance downgraded per Kelly policy

He had been operating with an interim clearance level for more than a year

With a top-secret clearance, Mr Kushner would have had access to information about covert operations and intelligence sources and methods. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
With a top-secret clearance, Mr Kushner would have had access to information about covert operations and intelligence sources and methods. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The security clearance of White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has been downgraded, according to two people informed of the decision.

Mr Kushner had been operating with an interim clearance at the "top secret/sensitive compartmented information" level for more than a year. Now he is only authorised 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 on condition of anonymity.

Chief of Staff John 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 Mr Kelly’s order had been implemented.

Mr Trump could have reversed the decision and unilaterally offered Mr Kushner a clearance, 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 Friday, when he addressed the security clearance issue for the first time.

Mr Kushner’s attorney said his client’s ability to do his job won’t be affected by any change to his clearance.

“Those involved in the process again have confirmed that there are dozens of people at Mr Kushner’s level whose process is delayed, that it is not uncommon for these clearance reviews to take this long in a new administration and that the current backlogs are now being addressed,” said Peter Mirijanian.

Mr Kushner’s portfolio once included relationships with China and Japan and a host of domestic priorities, including infrastructure, trade and economic development. But his freewheeling reach in the foreign policy space — which was viewed as undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — had already been curtailed somewhat under Mr Kelly.

Still, Mr Kushner is reportedly said to have reviewed the highly secret presidential daily brief and has been in the room for some of Mr Trump’s most consequential domestic and foreign policy decisions.

Mr Kushner is one of dozens of White House aides who have been working without permanent security clearances for the better part of a year.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday that she would not comment on individual security clearances, but called Mr Kushner “a valued member of the team, and he will continue to do the important work that he’s been doing since he started in the administration”.

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 US knows what is being shared with him.