Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had
his security clearance downgraded -- a move that will
prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to
which he once had unfettered access.
Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the
highest-level interim clearances -- at the Top
Secret/SCI-level -- were informed in a memo sent Friday that
their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level,
according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
The SCI acronym stands for sensitive compartmented
information, a category of information that comes from
sensitive intelligence sources and must be walled off.
The memo was not signed by chief of staff John Kelly, but it
comes as the retired Marine general and other top White
House aides are grappling with the fallout of a scandal
involving former White House staff secretary Rob Porter,
which revealed that dozens of White House aides had yet to
receive permanent clearances but nonetheless had access to
some of the country's deepest secrets.
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The president has the ability to grant Kushner a permanent
clearance, but Trump said Friday -- the same day the memo
was sent -- that he was leaving the decision to his chief of
"I will let General Kelly make that decision," Trump told
reporters. "I have no doubt he'll make the right decision."
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined
to comment on Kushner's clearance status at a briefing
"We actually haven't commented on Jared's issue indicated,
but we have commented on his ability to do his job. Which,
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."
Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement that
Kushner "has done more than what is expected of him in this
Lowell added that the changes would "not affect Mr.
Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work
he has been assigned by the president."
Friday's decision is the first change to the clearance
process instituted in the wake of the Porter debacle that
will directly affect Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser
to Trump and until now has had access to the president's
daily brief, the most highly classified document that Trump
"He cannot see the PDB, not a chance," said Bradley Moss, a
lawyer who specializes in national security law and
clearances. "He no longer has access to a range of
intelligence information that ordinarily someone in his
position and somebody with his responsibilities would
normally be privy to in order to perform their functions."
Moss said Kushner and others will be debriefed by officials
in the White House security office, an event scheduled to
take place Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of
the situation. "They're going to give him a list, 'Here's
what you've been debriefed from, you've been debriefed from
this program and that compartment, you no longer have any
access to it, and any breach of that would be a serious
security violation and a possible criminal issue.'"
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Kelly took the rare step last week of issuing a public
statement that Kushner would be able to continue his work in
the White House unfettered.
"As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his
ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign
policy portfolio including overseeing our
Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral
part of our relationship with Mexico," Kelly said in the
It was unclear whether Kushner would need access to top
secret information to continue performing those duties --
and whether Kelly was personally prepared to enact a policy
that could be perceived as a jab at the president's
The decision to downgrade White House staffers still working
on interim clearances, however, indicates that Kelly is
prepared to impose the same sort of discipline on the White
House clearance process that he has tried to impose on the
West Wing staff more broadly.
"The American people deserve a White House staff that meets
the highest standards and that has been carefully vetted --
especially those who work closely with the president or
handle sensitive national security information," Kelly told
colleagues in a memo circulated on Feb. 16. "We should --
and in the future, must -- do better."
Earlier this month, director of National Intelligence Dan
Coats said in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that
people with temporary security clearances should get only
limited access to sensitive classified information. Coats
did not mention any specific individuals.
"Sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary
clearance in order to fill a slot, but ... access has to be
limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in
a position to receive or not receive," Coats said. "It needs
to be reformed."
Kushner has seen his once-expansive West Wing role steadily
curtailed since Kelly's arrival last July. The new chief
immediately required Kushner and his wife, first daughter
Ivanka Trump, to report through him rather than directly to
The pair have also seen their circle of trusted allies
shrink in recent weeks. Reed Cordish, who joined the White
House early on as part of Kushner's Office of American
Innovation, left the White House earlier this month.
Communications staffer Josh Raffel, who handles requests
involving Kushner and Ivanka Trump, also plans to leave in
the next two months, according to two people familiar with
his decision. Raffel did not respond to multiple requests
for comment. The news of his departure was first reported by
Emily Stephenson and Annie Karni contributed to this report.
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