President Donald Trump ordered a top-secret security clearance be granted to Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, last May despite objections raised by intelligence and White House officials, four people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.
The Thursday report contradicts previous statements Trump made claiming he had no role in giving Kushner his clearance. Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife and a senior adviser to her father, reiterated that claim earlier this month.
Kushner lost his initial security clearance, which gave him access to some of the country’s most closely guarded secrets, last February after reports that he and others were operating with the clearance even though their background checks were not finished. It was restored to Kushner last May when the president overruled a decision by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Times reported.
John Kelly, who was White House chief of staff at the time, was so infuriated by Trump’s demand that he wrote an internal memo stating he had been “ordered” to give Kushner the clearance, according to the Times’ sources.
It’s unclear what factors led to recommendations that Kushner not receive the top-secret clearance, but many have noted his own family’s foreign real estate dealings and unreported contacts he has made with foreign agents.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Times she would not “comment on security clearances,” and a spokesman for Kushner said his application “underwent the normal process.”
In response to the news, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House oversight committee, said the panel had launched a wide-ranging investigation into the White House’s security clearances on Jan. 23, which included a look into Kushner’s documents and interviews.
Cummings said in a statement that the White House has not “produced a single document” or interview in response to the committee’s request.
The chairman threatened to obtain the documents in other ways if the Trump administration did not comply.
“The Committee expects full compliance with its requests as soon as possible, or it may become necessary to consider alternative means to compel compliance,” he said.
Other Democrats lambasted Trump’s alleged decision to grant his son-in-law the security clearance despite resistance from intelligence officials.
In a joint statement, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said his panel was working with the oversight committee as it investigates the White House’s security clearance.
“It’s called clearance by nepotism and a serious abuse that endangers our security,” Schiff tweeted.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the news “jaw-dropping” and accused Trump of lying to “the American people.”
“If the intelligence community doesn’t want to grant someone a security clearance ― it’s for a reason,” Blumenthal tweeted Thursday. “This jaw-dropping news must spark unanimous outrage & action amongst my colleagues.”
Joining Schiff’s statement, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said he was “concerned that the President has jeopardized our national security by putting clearances in the hand of unscrupulous people, and against the recommendations of background investigators.”
“Security clearances should be issued based on trust, not by blood or bond,” he said.
This isn’t the first news of formal objections to Kushner’s clearance. Sources told NBC News last month that two top White House security officials wrote recommendations against clearing Kushner but that their supervisor overruled them.
This story has been updated with reactions from Democrats.
Carla Herreria contributed to this report.