Feb 21, 2018

Kushner and Kelly clash over security clearances

Kushner with Kelly and Porter in the West Wing. Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, "is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle" with Chief of Staff John Kelly, the N.Y. Times reports.

The state of play: "Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the F.B.I. during their background checks ... In a memo issued on Friday, Mr. Kelly said he would revoke top clearances for anyone whose background check had been pending since June 1 or earlier."

  • The conflict: "Kushner, ... concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access ... Kushner has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit."
  • The backdrop: Kushner runs the White House's Middle East peace efforts, and is one of the few Trump officials who has had access to the President's Daily Brief, the crown jewels of U.S. intelligence products.
  • Where it stands: "Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Mr. Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees, saying only that the president’s son-in-law will still have all the access he needs to do his job under the new system."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at yesterday's briefing: "I can tell you that nothing that has taken place will affect the valuable work that Jared is doing."

Be smart: Kelly is in a weak position, with President Trump and the senior staff, because of his botched handling of domestic violence allegations against former Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Colleagues expect Jared to win this one.

Go deeper

U.S. and Taliban sign peace deal

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R) sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in Qatar. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

The United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar on Saturday after over a year of off-and-on negotiations, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The signing of the deal officially begins the process of ending the United States' longest war, which has spanned nearly two decades. The agreement sets a timetable for the U.S. to pull its remaining 13,000 troops out of Afghanistan, per the Times, but is contingent on the Taliban's completion of commitments, including breaking ties with international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 hours ago - Health