And the hits just keep on comin’.
Last month, during an interview in the Oval Office with The New York Times, Donald Trump insisted that he did not play a part in instructing White House officials to grant Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance.
Kushner had been denied a clearance by the FBI based on worries about his connections abroad and as The Times noted just three weeks ago, “the CIA also raised concerns [and] has continued to deny him access to ‘sensitive compartmentalized information.'”
In case you have any doubts about what Trump told Maggie Haberman last month when asked about the clearance, here is the actual audio recording:
Well, guess what? Trump was lying – surprise!
According to Haberman’s latest, out Thursday evening, both John Kelly and Don McGahn wrote internal memos documenting concerns about Kushner. Kelly’s memo contained a reference to being “ordered” by Trump to grant Kushner a top-secret clearance.
That, according to four people briefed on the matter.
McGahn’s memo, which apparently flagged potential problems raised by the CIA, “recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance”, Haberman reports, before reminding you that “it is not known precisely what factors led to the problems with Kushner’s security clearance [but] officials had raised questions about his own and his family’s real estate business’s ties to foreign governments and investors, and about initially unreported contacts he had with foreigners.”
Yes, “contacts he had with foreigners”, like, for instance, the fact that he was present at the infamous Trump Tower meeting and the fact that he conveniently forgot to mention a meeting he had with Sergey Kislyak when he applied for his clearance. Because a meeting with the Russian ambo (and a pow wow with the head of Vnesheconombank) is definitely something that just tends to slip one’s mind when applying for access to top-secret information. There’s no way that “error” (as his attorney dubbed it) was in any way related to an effort to cover up contacts between the incoming administration and the government which helped his father-in-law secure the presidency, right? Right.
And then there was the time Kushner was “unwittingly” bailed out by Doha, which was super “surprised” to learn about its “incidental” involvement in the 666 Fifth Avenue deal, something they presumably wouldn’t have wanted a part of considering Kushner is really tight with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who of course orchestrated the farcical blockade of Qatar in 2017.
Speaking of Prince Mohammed, Kushner spent some time hanging out with him this week, ostensibly as part of a Mideast peace push. Kushner has forged a tight bond with the Crown Prince over the past two years, and when the Jamal Khashoggi drama was unfolding in October, reportedly advised Riyadh that the whole thing was likely to blow over. And wouldn’t you know it, Trump proceeded to try and sweep the extrajudicial killing under the rug, going so far as to suggest that the CIA’s conclusions are flawed, much to the chagrin of Turkey and, really, the entire world. Fortunately, Congress isn’t going to let him get away with that.
You get the idea. There are all manner of concerns about Kushner’s foreign contacts that might have prompted the FBI and the CIA to recommend he not be allowed access to sensitive information.
For Trump, that didn’t matter. According to The Times, the White House Counsel’s Office advised against granting Kushner the clearance, but just a day later, Trump ordered Kelly to do it anyway.
The issue, you’ll recall, had been a bone of contention for quite a while. Here’s The Times with a quick Cliffs Notes version:
During a review of security clearances in February 2018 that was prompted by the controversy surrounding Rob Porter, then the White House staff secretary, who had been accused of domestic abuse, Mr. Kushner’s clearance was downgraded from interim top secret to secret, limiting his access to classified information. At the time, Mr. Kelly wrote a five-page memo, revoking temporary clearances that had been in place since June 1, 2017.
That affected both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, who told friends and advisers that they believed that Mr. Kelly and Mr. McGahn were targeting them for petty reasons instead of legitimate concerns flagged by officials.
Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump both complained to the president about the situation, current and former administration officials said.
Haberman notes that there may be conflicting versions of just what Trump said to Kelly, but the bottom line is that John interpreted it as an order.
What you can interpret it as, is yet another sign of Trump’s penchant for nepotism and disregard not only for decorum, but in fact for national security. Do note that this story clearly suggests the president not only thumbed his nose at Kelly and McGahn, but at the CIA, in the interest of giving his (highly conflicted and possibly compromised) son-in-law access to the nation’s secrets.
So, in other words, this is just one more piece of incremental evidence to support Michael Cohen’s contention that America is now an autocracy.
And speaking of things that happen in autocracies, you can expect more of this in the very near future: