After successfully staying out of the discussion of alleged White House misconduct for the first two years of the Trump presidency, Ivanka Trump has finally become the target of closer scrutiny: A CNN report Tuesday claimed her father, President Donald Trump, overrode the objections of top White House officials in order to grant her security clearances last year.
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Citing “three sources familiar with the matter,” CNN said Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn and his former chief of staff John Kelly to push through security clearance for his daughter, along with son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kelly and McGahn reportedly recommended that the clearances be denied following questions raised by White House personnel security office, following the couple’s FBI background checks.
The CNN report said that after Kelly and McGahn refused to give Trump and Kushner the clearances, Trump stepped in and did so himself. Both Trump and Ivanka Trump have denied that the president played any part in getting clearances for his daughter and son-in-law.
Last week, the New York Times reported that the president intervened on Kushner’s behalf in order to get him clearance, saying that Kelly had written an internal memo discussing how he had been ordered by Trump to give Kushner the top-secret clearance.
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Kushner’s ability to manage his portfolio, which included the Middle East peace process and other foreign affairs, was thought to be hampered by his inability to receive the highest security clearances that would allow him to access classified information. Kelly had taken Kushner’s temporary clearance away in February 2018 as part of measures to tighten procedures following a domestic abuse scandal that led to the firing of White House aide Rob Porter. Last May, Kushner had his security clearance restored.
However, Ivanka Trump, though she has represented the Trump White House at overseas events, does not appear to have been as deeply involved in foreign policy as to warrant such extreme measures to gain her security clearance.
The scandal has sparked renewed discussion of Kushner’s qualifications and Ivanka Trump’s undefined role in the White House.
“What is Jared Kushner’s expertise in Middle East peace, and what is Ivanka Trump’s expertise in anything?” asked CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on a televised panel discussing the story Tuesday evening.
Former Republican National Committee chief of staff Mike Shields rose to the couple’s defense, saying that both brought to their government positions the qualifications of any official coming from the private sector who has “run a successful business,” “created wealth” and “created jobs.”
Cooper responded, skeptically, that Kushner didn’t “create a successful business, he inherited it from his dad,” asking Shields: “Do you really believe he’s qualified to negotiate Middle East peace?”