WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, has been stripped of his high-level security clearance after months of delays in completing an exhaustive background check, limiting his ability to view highly classified information, a White House official and another person familiar with Kushner's situation said.
Kushner's top-secret clearance was reduced to secret and his portfolio, especially with regard to his conduct of foreign affairs on behalf of President Donald Trump, is expected to contract sharply as well in the days ahead, the people said Tuesday. The change in his clearance was first reported by Politico.
The decision comes after John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, recently moved to overhaul the security clearance process at the White House after the resignation of Rob Porter, Trump's staff secretary, amid allegations of spousal abuse.
Porter and Kushner were among dozens of top White House officials who had been operating on interim security clearances for many months because of problems completing their FBI background checks. Kelly said in a memo this month that he would revoke top clearances for anyone whose background check had been pending since June 1 or earlier, beginning last Friday.
Officials have not said what has held up Kushner's background check, though extensive contacts with foreign officials are usually scrutinized closely by the FBI. And Kushner's meetings with foreign leaders and his business ventures could be relevant to Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, the Washington Post reported, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.
Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.
It is unclear whether any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner's contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.
Kushner has pressed to keep his top-level access to some of the United States' most sensitive classified material. That access has allowed him to view the presidential daily brief, the summary of intelligence that is given to the president every day.
Armed with that access, Kushner served as a high-level envoy to leaders around the world, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, and is the top White House adviser charged with negotiating peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He has also focused on trade issues with Mexico and China.
Kushner has also led domestic policy initiatives, including technology innovation and prison reform, that typically do not require the kind of access to high-level secret information that a security clearance would provide.
National security veterans in Washington said the loss of high-level clearance will be a hindrance when it comes to Kushner's foreign policy role, particularly his ability to understand what the other players are thinking, including the Saudis, Iranians and others.
"It makes an already difficult situation all the more difficult," said Aaron David Miller, a former longtime State Department peace negotiator. "Knowing stuff gave us an edge. He doesn't know what he doesn't know, and now he cannot find out. That is a real liability when intelligence services are driving a lot of the information."
The downgrade in Kushner's clearance also raises questions about whether he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, might leave the White House to return to their private businesses in New York. Kushner's allies have repeatedly said that the couple intend to remain in the White House as advisers to Trump.