Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance Downgraded

Jared Kushner this month at the White House.

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been stripped of his top-secret security clearance after months of delays in completing his background check, and will now be limited in his ability to view highly classified information, a White House official and another person familiar with Mr. Kushner’s situation said on Tuesday.

Mr. Kushner’s clearance was reduced to the level of secret and his official portfolio inside the West Wing, especially with regard to his globe-trotting foreign affairs work on behalf of President Trump, is expected to be sharply reduced, as well, the people said.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, both Mr. Kushner, 37, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, 36, have enjoyed a special status within the White House as both family members and assistants to the president. But the complicated finances surrounding Mr. Kushner’s family’s vast real estate empire and his qualifications for the foreign policy responsibilities given to him by his father-in-law invited scrutiny from the start.

Often seen by Mr. Trump’s side during key moments of international diplomacy and presidential announcements during much of 2017, Mr. Kushner accompanied Mr. Trump on trips to Asia, including China and Japan; to the Mideast, including Israel and Saudi Arabia; and to Europe, meeting with officials in each place. He also made his own trips abroad.

More recently, Mr. Kushner has embraced a lower profile as more questions have been raised about his interactions with foreign officials and about his financial entanglements.

The decision to reduce his access to classified information was made after John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, announced plans to overhaul the security clearance process at the White House after the resignation of Rob Porter, Mr. Trump’s staff secretary, amid allegations of spousal abuse. The change in Mr. Kushner’s clearance was first reported by Politico.

Mr. Porter and Mr. Kushner were among dozens of top White House officials who had been operating on interim security clearances for many months because of issues in completing their F.B.I. background checks. It was unclear on Tuesday whether Mr. Kushner could do anything to get the top-secret clearance back.

Mr. 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.

Mr. Kushner’s business background, and the well-publicized financial woes of his family’s real estate empire, have long raised concerns in American security agencies that foreign governments might try to gain influence inside the Trump White House by trying to do business with the president’s son-in-law.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that American officials had intercepted conversations among officials from at least four foreign governments — China, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Israel — about using business opportunities to seek leverage over Mr. Kushner. One American official with knowledge of American intelligence confirmed that one of the countries, the U.A.E., has seemed particularly interested in cultivating ties to Mr. Kushner.

The official said that intercepts in 2016 and 2017 indicated that Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the U.A.E.’s de facto ruler, has seen Mr. Kushner as a target of influence by the wealthy, influential Persian Gulf state. The country has been a particularly influential player on policy issues that Mr. Kushner has directly overseen — including efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Kushner’s dealings with foreign businessmen and officials have been a focus of intense interest, and criticism, since the early days of the administration, when Mr. Kushner repeatedly had to disclose foreign contacts that he had initially left off documents he was required to submit for his security clearance.

Those kinds of contacts are often closely scrutinized — especially if there are many of them — by the F.B.I. during background checks. Mr. Kushner’s meetings with foreign leaders and multiple business ventures could also be relevant to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The issue of Mr. Kushner’s clearance has led to a continuing clash between him and Mr. Kelly, to whom he nominally reports. Mr. Kushner has pressed to keep his top-level access to some of the United States’ most sensitive classified material, including the presidential daily brief, the summary of intelligence that is presented to Mr. Trump every day.

With that access, Mr. Kushner has served as a high-level envoy, meeting with the leaders of key allies like Saudi Arabia, as well as the White House adviser charged with negotiating Mideast peace. He has also focused on trade issues with Mexico and China.

Mr. Kushner has led domestic policy initiatives, including technology innovation and prison reform, that typically do not require access to highly classified information. Those responsibilities are unlikely to be affected. But the diminished security clearance will hinder Mr. Kushner’s foreign policy role.

“It makes an already difficult situation all the more difficult,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Mideast negotiator and now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “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.”

Mr. Kushner’s change in status also raises questions about whether he and his wife might leave the White House and return to their private businesses in New York. Mr. Kushner’s allies have repeatedly said that the couple intend to remain in the White House as advisers to Mr. Trump. It is unclear whether the new policy might affect Ms. Trump, who also serves in the West Wing as a senior adviser, a position that typically has clearance to view sensitive or classified material.

Josh Raffel, a spokesman for both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, declined to comment.

Mr. Kushner is the most prominent administration official to be affected by Mr. Kelly’s new policy, and the White House has for weeks deflected questions about what actions would be taken to address it. In a news conference last week, Mr. Trump said he would leave the issue of Mr. Kushner’s security clearance to his chief of staff.

One official said the action taken on Mr. Kushner’s clearance was a high-profile example of Mr. Kelly’s efforts to enforce his new policy surrounding interim clearances, and that he would hold all aides similarly accountable, no matter how senior or close to the president.

In a briefing for reporters on Tuesday before the disclosure of Mr. Kushner’s new security status, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, repeatedly refused to answer questions about his clearance or that of other aides at the White House.

“I’ve been very clear that we don’t discuss security clearances,” she said. “And that’s not changing today, it didn’t change yesterday, it’s not going to change tomorrow, probably not going to change next week.”

Abbe D. Lowell, Mr. Kushner’s personal lawyer, declined to comment specifically on the changes in Mr. Kushner’s security clearance.

“Mr. Kushner has done more than what is expected of him in this process,” Mr. Lowell said in a statement. “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. No concerns were raised about Mr. Kushner’s application.”

Mr. Lowell added that “as General Kelly himself said, the new clearance policy will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President.”

Government ethics groups that had long argued that Mr. Trump’s White House took a cavalier attitude to the handling of top-secret information applauded the resolution of Mr. Kushner’s clearance issue.

“We are glad that Kushner and the rest of the White House officials still on interim clearances have now lost access to top-secret information,” said Noah Bookbinder, the director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had sent Mr. Kelly a complaint requesting that Mr. Kushner be stripped of his clearance.

“There continue to be serious questions as to the Trump administration’s handling of secure information; failure to at least downgrade Kushner’s temporary clearance would have set a dangerous precedent by signaling a willingness to tolerate unacceptable national security risks,” Mr. Bookbinder said in a statement.

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