WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he’ll leave it up to chief of staff John Kelly to decide whether Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will keep his interim security clearance.
“I will let General Kelly make that decision and he’s going to do what’s right for the country and I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, where he addressed the security clearance issue for the first time.
Kushner is one of dozens of White House aides who have been working without permanent security clearances for the better part of a year.
Kelly had set a Friday deadline for halting access to top secret information for those whose applications have been pending since June 1 or before that date. Some officials are expected to leave their posts as a result, while others will continue working with reduced – or no – access to classified information.
White House officials had not ruled out the idea of Trump potentially using his executive authority to grant Kushner a permanent security clearance, which would circumvent the traditional process.
But Trump made clear Friday he’d be leaving it to Kelly to make the call.
“He’s going to do what’s right for the country and I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision,” said Trump.
At the same time, the president heaped praise on Kushner, saying he’d “done an outstanding job.” He noted Kushner does not take a salary and complained he’d been treated “very unfairly” by the press.
Trump also complained he’d inherited a “broken” background check system in which it can take “months and months and months” for full security clearance to be granted, even for people without complicated financial holdings.
Kelly announced the changes in the wake of intense criticism over the White House’s handling of domestic abuse allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
The White House has repeatedly changed its timeline about who knew what about the allegations and when.
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