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Gen. John Kelly (left) and Jared Kushner (right). Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Chief of Staff John Kelly downgraded Jared Kushner's security clearance on Feb. 23 from "Interim Top Secret" to "Interim Secret," according to an administrative staffer involved in the HR process for handling clearances. The White House declined to comment on this story.

Why it matters: Kelly's recent overhaul of the security clearance process has officially changed Kushner's role — he was previously able to access sensitive national security information that very few people have access to, despite operating on an interim security clearance for the last year.

The difference in security clearances:

  • Interim Top Secret/SCI: Gives access to sensitive compartments of intelligence (SCI) that are restricted to a small group of "trusted, highly vetted and scrutinized users who need it to perform their duties," David Wade, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State John Kerry, told Axios. That information is deemed so classified that if made public, it could have national security implications. handling is so rigorously enforced and protected.”
  • Interim Secret: Would not have access to certain classified information, like the president's daily briefing. "You may be cleared for a level but that doesn’t mean you have a ‘need to know,'" an FBI officer told Axios.

Politico was the first to report that Kushner's clearance had been downgraded.

Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Kushner's work won't be affected. "The new policy announced by General Kelly will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President."

Background: When asked whether Kushner's security clearance would change at a press conference (on the same day Kelly ordered this downgrade), President Trump simply said, "General Kelly respects Jared a lot and General Kelly will make that call. I won't make that call."

  • Kelly previously announced his plan to revoke high-level access for those working on an interim security clearance, access that Kushner has been reluctant to give up.
  • Kushner's Interim Top Secret clearance allowed him to attend classified briefings, read the daily intelligence briefing, oversee strategies for Middle East peace, and meet with foreign officials around the world.
  • His clearance was downgraded once before, to Interim Top Secret on Sept. 15, because his background check wasn't completed and DOJ hadn't yet granted final clearance.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
3 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

3 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.