Kelly overhauls White House clearance procedure


White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants to tighten the administration's security-clearance process following an abuse scandal surrounding one of its top aides.

That group will include Kelly, counsel to the President Don McGahn, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, deputy chief of staff for operations Joseph Hagin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Director of the FBI Christopher Wray, and heads of appropriate agencies and their counsels, "to study the clearance process in general and to take action to streamline, harmonize, and modernize standards across the Executive Branch". But Kelly writes he is still not sure whether this is achievable. Kushner's lawyer seems pretty sure of that too, telling the Post that Kelly's new policy "will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president".

The changes come after the security clearance process was called into question during the fallout over spousal abuse allegations against Rob Porter. Porter during their marriages.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said earlier this week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided the updates to the White House Personnel Security Office, but declined to say whether West Wing officials knew of the allegations of domestic abuse. The memo does not do that. "The American people deserve a White House staff that meets the highest standards and that has been carefully vetted-especially those who work closely with the president or handle sensitive national security information".

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Kushner is one of more than 130 political appointees who reportedly have been unable to secure permanent security clearances since they started working for the White House and other parts of the Trump administration.

The White House gave shifting and often misleading accounts of when top officials learned of the allegations, and a congressional committee is investigating the matter. Has the F.B.I. provided information to the White House about whether Mr. Kushner will be able to obtain a permanent security clearance, and whether he is ineligible for any category of security clearance?

Kelly begins the memo by stating that in the wake of the Porter scandal, "We should - and in the future, must - do better" and acknowledges that problems in the security-clearance process demanded attention. The aides, including Rob Porter, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, worked on interim clearance as they waited for full clearance. "Kelly revealed, "...we need to do better across the the past, credible and substantiated reports of past domestic abuse - even physical abuse - were not considered automatic disqualification for suitability for employment or a security clearance". The staff secretary, who had access to classified documents delivered to the president, maintained his interim clearance until he resigned last week.

McGahn was apprised of at least some of the accusations about Porter at least four times, including as early as January 2017, according to White House officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.