Amid Security Clearance Snags, Kelly Says Kushner Has 'Full Confidence' to Retain Foreign Policy Portfolio

John Kelly expressed support for Kushner's 'valuable contributions' to Mideast peace efforts following reports of issues with his security clearance

U.S. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt wait for a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York on February 20, 2018.
\ LUCAS JACKSON/ REUTERS

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Tuesday that he had "full confidence" in Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, amid reports suggesting that Kushner might lose his access to classified intelligence due to issues with his temporary security clearance. In a statment distributed by the White House, Kelly offered strong support for Kushner's "valuable contributions," including on the issue of achieving Middle East Peace.

"I will not comment on anybody's specific security clearance situation," Kelly said, adding that "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." Kelly also mentioned that Kushner was "serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico."

The New York Times reported earlier on Tuesday that Kelly and Kushner had gotten into a dispute over the issue of Kushner's access to sensitive, classified intelligence. Kushner has not attained a permanent security clearance since he joined the White House last year, and has been operating with a temporary clearance. It is not clear what exactly is stopping the relevant agencies from issuing a regular clearance for him. 

The report stated that "Mr. Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the F.B.I. during their background checks," and that Kelly was working to limit the access that officials with that kind of clearance have to sensitive intelligence. 

The reason for this attempt by Kelly, according to the report, is the scandal involving former White House aide Rob Porter, who has been accused of domestic violence. The accusations against Porter came up during his clearance process and caused the FBI to notify the White House, yet Porter continued receiving access to delicate intelligence despite his situation. Kelly, the Times reported, is trying to close a "loophole" in the clearance process, leading to the alleged confrontation with Kushner which Kelly has denied.