Wednesday 12 December 2018

Kushner loses clearance to top US secrets

Jared Kushner won’t be viewing top-secret information
Jared Kushner won’t be viewing top-secret information

Nick Allen

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, has lost his clearance to view the most highly valued US secrets.

Mr Kushner will no longer have access to the President's Daily Brief, the highly classified intelligence report which is given to Mr Trump every morning.

The US president's son-in-law was downgraded to accessing only "Secret" rather than "Top Secret" intelligence, which can include details of covert CIA operations and matters shared by foreign intelligence agencies.

The decision was taken by White House chief of staff John Kelly and it came as he moved to impose greater discipline on access to secrets.

Mr Kushner, who is married to the president's daughter Ivanka Trump, has been operating on an interim security clearance for over a year as his permanent clearance has still not been approved.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly recently passed new information to White House Counsel Don McGahn that led to a further slowing down of Mr Kushner's permanent clearance application. The nature of that information was not clear.

Mr Kelly indicated last week he was clamping down on White House officials operating on interim security clearances.

He did so after it emerged Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, had worked for a year with a temporary clearance despite accusations by two former wives of domestic abuse, which he has denied.

That episode highlighted that many senior White House aides, including Mr Kushner, also still had not been approved for permanent clearances.

Mr Trump can authorise a permanent security clearance for his son-in-law but said last week he would let Mr Kelly decide the matter.

The president said: "I will let General Kelly make that decision. I have no doubt he'll make the right decision."

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to comment. She said: "We actually haven't commented on Jared's issue indicated. But we have commented on his ability to do his job.

"He's 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."

Allies of Mr Kushner said the security clearance situation would not impede him from doing his work as a senior adviser to the president. Abbe Lowell, his lawyer, said: "Mr Kushner has done more than what is expected of him in this (security clearance) process.

"My inquiries have confirmed there are a dozen or more people at Mr Kushner's level whose process is delayed, that it is not uncommon for this process to take this long in a new administration, that the current backlogs are being addressed, and no concerns were raised about Mr Kushner's application."

Meanwhile, Mr Trump again rejected talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis unless conditions are met, this coming hours after the US special envoy for the North had announced his abrupt decision to retire tomorrow.

South Korean-born Joseph Yun, a strong advocate for engagement with Pyongyang, has led US contact with North Korea, quietly pursuing direct diplomacy since taking his post under former president Barack Obama in 2016.

Mr Yun's departure leaves the State Department without a point person for North Korea policy at a time Pyongyang has signalled it may be willing to talk to the United States after a period of diplomatic contacts with South Korea during the Winter Olympics.

The special envoy's authority to engage with North Korea appeared to be undercut by a tug-of-war between the White House and State Department over North Korea policy under Mr Trump.

"He was sceptical and wary of the White House's hardline approach toward North Korea from the beginning," a senior South Korean official told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Another senior South Korean official said Mr Yun had "run out of steam" amid tension between the White House, which has been carrying out its "maximum pressure" campaign against North Korea, and the State Department, which supported Seoul's efforts to re-engage Pyongyang.

While his tenure was praised publicly by the State Department, one senior administration official said Mr Yun would not be missed because he contradicted Mr Trump's policies.

© Daily Telegraph London

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