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Jared Kushner and Kelly on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 3, 2017. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

On Feb. 23, 2018, White House counsel Don McGahn sent a two-page memo to Chief of Staff John Kelly arguing that Jared Kushner's security clearance needed to be downgraded, the New York Times' Michael Schmidt reports in his forthcoming book, "Donald Trump v. The United States."

Driving the news: Schmidt reports directly from the confidential McGahn memo for the first time, describing how Kelly had serious concerns about granting Kushner a top-secret clearance in response to a briefing he had received related to the routine FBI investigation into Kushner’s background.

  • "The information you were briefed on one week ago and subsequently relayed to me, raises serious additional concerns about whether this individual ought to retain a top security clearance until such issues can be investigated and resolved," McGahn wrote in the memo to Kelly.
  • The details of the highly sensitive intelligence that raised alarms with Kelly are not revealed in the McGahn memo or in Schmidt's book.
  • McGahn wrote that he had been unable to receive the briefing or "access this highly compartmented information directly" about Kushner, Schmidt reports.
  • "Interim secret is the highest clearance that I can concur until further information is received," McGahn concluded, referring to the level of classified information Kushner would be able to access.

Between the lines: "By reducing Kushner's clearance from top secret to secret, McGahn and Kelly had restricted Kushner's access to the PDB, the closely held rundown provided by the intelligence community six days a week for the president and his top aides, and other highly sensitive intelligence that exposed sources and methods."

  • "McGahn did note that there was a possibility that when the background check was complete, it could be resolved in Kushner's favor, or there could be a recommendation that he not receive a clearance," Schmidt writes.
  • "McGahn conceded [in the memo] that Trump could if he chose simply disregard any security concerns and circumvent any standard procedures and grant Kushner the security clearance himself."

The bottom line: President Trump ultimately intervened to ensure Kushner got his top-secret security clearance.

  • Schmidt reviewed more than 1,000 pages of federal government documents that have not been previously reported on. These include sensitive materials from Mueller's office, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's office, the White House counsel's office, the president's legal team and the FBI.

The White House, Kelly and McGahn did not respond to requests for comment.

Go deeper

Government watchdog sues Trump, Kushner and WH to prevent records being destroyed

President Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit against President Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and the White House on Tuesday to prevent them from destroying records during his remaining time in office.

Why it matters: The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other groups allege in their suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, that Trump and his administration are violating the Presidential Records Act by failing to properly preserve records of official government business.

California governor declares drought emergency in most counties

A sign in April on the outskirts of Buttonwillow in California's Kern County, one of the top agriculture producing counties in the San Joaquin Valley, after historically low winter rainfall. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover 41 of the state's 58 counties on Monday.

Why it matters: Most of California and the American West are experiencing an "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Newsom and other officials are concerned California could experience a repeat of the catastrophic 2020 wildfire season.

2 hours ago - World

Jerusalem crisis escalates after Hamas and Israel trade rocket fire

Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Nine children were among 20 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time since 2014 Monday, per AP and Reuters.

The big picture: The rockets come after escalating violence in Jerusalem has injured 250 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes that began Friday.