The White House said Tuesday that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will remain in his role despite having lost his top-secret security clearance.
“He’s doing a great job on behalf of the president and he is going to continue in his role,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said on CNN.
The White House is seeking to tamp down speculation that Kushner’s position is in jeopardy after his clearance was downgraded as part of chief of staff John Kelly’s push to restrict access to classified information among members of the administration.
Kushner previously had access to some of the nation’s most closely held secrets under an interim clearance that allowed him to see information designated top secret/SCI. He now has a secret temporary clearance, which provides a lower level of access.
Former U.S. officials have questioned how a senior adviser who plays a central role in relations with China, Mexico and the Middle East could carry out his duties without a high-level security clearance.
“I can’t imagine that he can continue in that job,” former CIA official John Sipher said on MSNBC.
Kushner has experienced repeated delays in his FBI background check, leading some to conclude he might never receive a permanent clearance.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday
that officials from four countries have discussed ways to manipulate Kushner using his business deals in real estate from before his time in the White House.
Kushner reportedly held talks with foreign officials without coordinating with the National Security Council, raising concerns within the White House about whether overseas officials could take advantage of Kushner.
Despite those issues, Trump could have acted unilaterally to grant Kushner the highest-level clearance. Trump instead left the matter in the hands of Kelly, who has reportedly experienced tensions with members of the president’s family.
Kelly has faced mounting pressure to clamp down on security clearances after domestic abuse allegations surfaced against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who, like Kushner, was operating under an interim clearance.
The decision over Kushner’s clearance reportedly came in a memo last Friday, the deadline for officials working under interim clearances to have them revoked.
Kelly has not commented on Kushner’s lower clearance level, but he issued a statement defending Kushner last week.
“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,” the chief of staff said.
Kushner’s White House role has already come under scrutiny as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly interviewed Kushner, who is said to be involved in several key episodes related to the probe.
The former New York-area real estate executive has also lost several key allies in the White House, including deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and spokesman Josh Raffel, whose departure was announced Tuesday
Still, some Trump allies believe Kushner’s job is secure.
“Jared will always be on strong footing as long as he is Mr. Ivanka Trump,” said one former campaign and transition official, referring to the president’s daughter. “He’ll stay as long as he is allowed.”