White House Told Kushner’s Security Clearance Will Be Delayed

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, has resisted losing access to highly classified information.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department informed the White House this month that there were substantial issues related to Jared Kushner that still needed to be investigated and would significantly delay a recommendation on whether he should receive a permanent security clearance, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The White House was not told what the issues were involving Mr. Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. But the notification led White House lawyers and aides to believe that they were more problematic than the complexity of his finances and his initial failure to disclose contacts with foreign leaders — the reasons Mr. Kushner’s lawyers have said are holding up the process, the two people said.

An interim clearance has given him access to closely guarded information, including the presidential daily brief, the intelligence summary Mr. Trump receives every day. The issue took on added urgency after the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, issued a sweeping review of interim clearances in response to the disclosure that the White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, had his permanent security clearance delayed for a year because of spousal abuse allegations.

In a memo to the White House staff, Mr. Kelly said that he would cut off high-level access to many of the aides who had been unable to get a permanent clearance.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe D. Lowell, declined to comment.

The new details about Mr. Kushner’s security clearance, first reported by The Washington Post, emerged hours after Mr. Trump said on Friday that he would leave it up to Mr. Kelly to decide whether Mr. Kushner could continue to hold his interim clearance.

Mr. Trump’s statement set up a potential confrontation between his son-in-law and his chief of staff, who have clashed privately in recent months. In addition to the new policy he announced, which appeared meant to restrict Mr. Kushner’s ability to receive high-level national security information. Mr. Kelly has also tried to restrict Mr. Kushner’s access to the president.

“I will let General Kelly make that decision, and he’s going to do what’s right for the country,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia. “I have no doubt he will make the right decision.”

Pointing to Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine, Mr. Trump said: “General Kelly respects Jared a lot. I will let the general, who’s right here, make that call.” The president praised Mr. Kushner, calling him “truly outstanding” and “an extraordinary dealmaker.”

He noted that Mr. Kushner had been working to broker peace in the Middle East. “The hardest deal to make of any kind is between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said. “We’re actually making great headway.”

Mr. Kelly, who has tried to inject discipline and order into Mr. Trump’s freewheeling West Wing, has bristled from the start at Mr. Kushner’s amorphous and omnipresent role, and Mr. Kushner has been angered in turn at what he regards as challenges to his authority and access.

The strains have deepened in recent days, as Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have privately disparaged the chief of staff to Mr. Trump, faulting his handling of the scandal surrounding Mr. Porter, the staff secretary who resigned under pressure after spousal abuse allegations became public.

Mr. Kelly’s memo further inflamed the situation, essentially suggesting that Mr. Kushner might lose the high-level clearance — including to view the presidential daily brief, a summary of intelligence and other sensitive information — that he has enjoyed for more than a year.

At his news conference, Mr. Trump blamed the federal government for the delay on the security clearance, saying there was a “broken system,” and that it took too long for White House employees to have their backgrounds screened by investigators. He complained that it had taken “months and months and months” for some of his staff members to be given their security clearances, despite the fact that some of them do not have complicated financial backgrounds — a factor that sometimes delays background investigations.

While the federal security clearance system has long been criticized as broken and has a backlog of hundreds of thousands of pending applications, senior White House officials almost always have their applications expedited so they can be cleared within weeks and perform their duties.

It is highly unusual for multiple senior officials to spend months serving with only interim clearances, a problem that Mr. Kelly privately began talking about fixing in September.

Mr. Kushner met with Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators briefly last year to discuss his dealings with the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. The interview led Mr. Kushner’s lawyers to believe that he was considered a witness, not a target, in the special counsel investigation.

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