Aug 1, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats' request to probe WH security clearances rejected by watchdog

Jared Kushner (L) and Ivanka Trump arrive for the official launch of the Trump 2020 campaign.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration's intelligence watchdog rejected Senate Democrats' request to investigate the White House's handling of security clearances for employees including senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a letter obtained by NBC News Wednesday shows.

Details: In the July 22 letter, Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community, told the Democrats he could only investigate the issue if the president requested it. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and 3 other top Democrats sent President Trump a letter Wednesday, asking him to order a probe.

Why it matters: A White House security adviser told the House Oversight Committee in April that 25 denials for security clearance applications were overridden by the Trump administration.

  • Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, has had his security clearance come into question before as a result of his numerous foreign contacts and reports that he's used WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging app, to communicate with foreign leaders.

What they're saying: Congress would take a more direct role in legislating and overseeing White House security clearances unless such a review was conducted, warned the letter — signed by Warner and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee; Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee; and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member on Armed Services.

"Over the last two years, public reporting has raised serious concerns about irregularities and questionable decisions related to eligibility determinations for [White House] personnel access to classified information."
— Excerpt from the Democrats' letter to Trump

The other side: Kushner told Fox News when asked about the issue in April, "I can’t comment for the White House’s process, but what I can say is that over the last two years that I’ve been here, I’ve been accused of all different types of things, and all of those things have turned out to be false."

Go deeper: Cummings names subpoena targets for security clearance investigation

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