President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE on Friday said chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE will have the final word on a security clearance for his chief adviser and son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump attacks Meghan McCain and her family McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE.
Speaking on Friday at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump defended his son-in-law, saying that he is doing important work at the White House and not accepting a paycheck.
“He has done an outstanding job,” Trump said. “I think he has been treated unfairly. He is a high-quality person. He works for nothing. Nobody ever reports that. He gets zero. He doesn't get a salary.”
The president said he trusts that Kelly will make the right decision on whether to revoke Kushner’s clearance or not.
“Gen. Kelly respects Jared a lot,” Trump said.
“I will let Gen. Kelly make that decision,” he added. “And he's going to do what's right for the country. And I have no doubt he will make the right decision.”
The White House has implemented new procedures on security clearances to ensure swift and comprehensive background reviews for staff with access to sensitive information.
The new procedures were prompted by the controversy over former staff secretary Rob Porter, who for months was able to review classified information on a partial security clearance even though the FBI had informed the White House that his two ex-wives had accused him of abuse.
Porter has since resigned, but new questions have been raised about Kushner, who is believed to be operating on a partial security clearance. Kushner’s background review has reportedly been slowed by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump blamed the White House controversy over security clearances on a “broken system” that he said was already in place when he took over.
The White House has said that it has followed protocols, even in the case of Porter, but that the security clearance process is flawed and allows for temporary clearances to drag on while a staffer’s background remains under review.
Kelly initially defended Porter after the allegations surfaced. His handling of the situation provoked demands that he resign or be fired. Porter rose through the ranks at the White House under Kelly’s watch and there are questions about how long the chief of staff knew about Porter’s past.
That controversy drew attention to Kushner’s security clearance. He is reportedly one of only a few people in the White House with access to the president's daily intelligence briefings.
Kushner has a wide-ranging portfolio of responsibilities at the White House, including Middle East peace.
“Jared Kushner is right in the middle of that,” Trump said Friday. “He is an extraordinary deal maker. If he does that, that will be an incredible accomplishment and a very important thing for our country.”