On a Normal Day, Kushner’s Security Clearance Would Be the Story

If today had been an ordinary day, we’d be talking about this major NBC News scoop:

Jared Kushner’s application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top-secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival.

Even if I intuitively knew this must be going on, it’s still shocking to see it in print. There are at least 30 people working in this administration who have security clearances that pose an unacceptable degree of risk to our national security. I think that’s probably a bigger deal than the news about Jared Kushner, if only because it indicates a kind of rot that is impossible to contain.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.

At some point my ability to snark fails me, but half the man’s cabinet has already resigned in disgust or disgrace, and then there’s his revolving chiefs of staff, national security advisers, and communications staff. I wonder how many of his people actually passed their background checks.

As for Kushner, things are beginning to look pretty grim for him.

A German bank reportedly has evidence of “suspicious transactions” related to Jared Kushner’s family accounts and is willing to hand the information over to Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller.

The board chairman of the banking giant Deutsche Bank, Paul Achleitner, called for an internal investigation and found troubling results, German business magazine Manager Magazin reported in its print edition released on Friday.

Deutsche Bank—a major lender to President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior White House advisor Kushner, according to Mother Jones—provided the results to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, which is Germany’s bank regulatory agency and referred to as BaFin.

“Achleitner’s internal detectives were embarrassed to deliver their interim report regarding real estate tycoon Kushner to the financial regulator BaFin,” states the Manager Magazin story translated from German to English. “Their finding: There are indications that Donald Trump’s son-in-law or persons or companies close to him could have channeled suspicious monies through Deutsche Bank as part of their business dealings.”

This won’t come as any surprise to the professionals who checked out Kushner’s background. He failed the initial test and then he really flunked when the CIA took a look to see if he should get a sensitive compartmented information (SCI) clearance that would give him access to transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and direct CIA source reporting.

After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top-secret clearance, Kushner’s file then went to the CIA for a ruling on SCI.

After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions balked, two of the people familiar with the matter said. One called over to the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top-secret clearance, the sources said. Top-secret information is defined as material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries.

The sources say the CIA has not granted Kushner clearance to review SCI material.

And here’s the real coup de grâce:

The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, reported last February that officials in at least four countries had privately discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage, according to the current and former officials, were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the Post reported.

On the basis of potential foreign influence, the adjudicator deemed Kushner’s application “unfavorable” and handed it to a supervisor.

Yet, because he’s the president’s son-in-law, he gets to see whatever he wants. Under the circumstances, it’s easy to see why the betting markets are getting bullish on a Kushner indictment.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com