One of the ongoing dramas with the White House has been how interim security clearances are managed. It was brought into public view with the whole Rob Porter fiasco, but it has become more of a tool to try to force Jared Kushner out of the White House. I feel about security clearances like I feel about locks. They exist to keep an honest man honest. Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, the Walker spy ring, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning all high security clearances. Just like a lock doesn’t stop a determined thief, a clearance didn’t make our nation’s secrets any safer.
Today, in a press conference President Trump announced that Kushner’s fate was in the hands of White House chief of staff John Kelly:
“That’ll be up to Gen. Kelly,” Trump said during a press conference at the White House. “Gen. Kelly respects Jared a lot and Gen. Kelly will make that call. I won’t make that call.”
The president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser has been working on an interim security clearance since joining the White House in January 2017, accessing sensitive information including the president’s daily intelligence briefing.
He is one of dozens of staffers, including his wife Ivanka, working without permanent clearance.
The Jared Kushner clearance is important to the never Trump folks because Trump obviously dotes on Kushner and that makes him a target. If you notice, one of the media and never Trump strategies has been to target Trump’s inner circle to deprive him of people he trusts. Not because they give bad advice, but because it is thought that without them Trump will be less able to carry out his agenda.
Kushner has an interim clearance, according to CNN he can’t get a final clearance until Mueller winds up his probe which means Kushner will be on Social Security by the time he’s cleared.
The two-fer in this is John Kelly. Ever since it became obvious that Kelly was not a secret member of the #Resistance and that he might be very much a hard-liner on issues like immigration, there has been a steady stream of rumors about Kelly either leaving or being fired. I think every week I read a story here about Kelly being on the way out. The media and never Trump people want Kelly gone because Kelly has imposed order on the workaday processes and replacing him means more chaos. And it is rumored that Kushner and Kelly don’t like each other…true? not true? I don’t know and neither do very many other people. But the perception is that this sets up a situation wherein Kelly either pushes Kushner out of the White House by denying him a clearance or he sets himself up for another round of attacks on security clearances. If he does push Kushner out, then the belief is that Trump will soon fire Kelly for that act of lèse majesté.
IF the only thing keeping Kushner from getting a clearance is Mueller’s probe, then Kelly should go ahead and keep him on because this contrived nonsense should not be allowed to have more impact on the administration than it has. If there is derogatory information that would prevent Kushner from possessing a clearance, the Kelly needs to suck it up and do what needs to be done. And let Trump decide if he really wants to try to find a new chief of staff.