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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

Updated 6 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

7 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.