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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

Report: LGBTQ+ Afghans' lives "dramatically worsened" under Taliban rule

Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Afghans have been threatened, attacked and "faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety" since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, per a report published Wednesday.

What they're saying: "We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them," per a statement from study co-author J. Lester Feder.

3 hours ago - World

Canadian Indigenous group finds 93 suspected unmarked graves

A makeshift memorial honoring the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass grave in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, last May. Photo: Cole Burston/AFP via Getty Images

Indigenous leaders in Canada's western province of British Columbia said Tuesday they believe they've found 93 unmarked graves near a former boarding school.

The big picture: Hundreds of mass graves have been found at the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children since last May, when the remains of 215 children were uncovered at one such site in B.C.

6 hours ago - World

Coast Guard searches for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

A U.S. Coast Guard ship leaving its base in Miami Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: AP/Marta Lavandier

U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching into the night for 39 people whose boat sank off Florida's coast over the weekend after traveling from the Bahamas.

The big picture: A "good Samaritan" contacted the Coast Guard about 8 a.m. Tuesday to say they "rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel" 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, per a tweet from the agency, which noted it was dealing with "a suspected human smuggling venture."