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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.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
12 mins ago - Science

The suborbital space race heats up

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are pushing to launch their first paying customers to the edge of space.

Why it matters: If the two companies succeed, it will open up a new market in the space industry, one focused on consumer-driven demand for expensive trips to suborbital space.

No one in Washington is happy with Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Oversight Board's decision Wednesday to uphold Facebook's suspension of former President Trump found few fans in Washington and exposed the company to a new round of attacks.

Why it matters: While the board urged Facebook back to the drawing board to better define its rules and processes around political speech, political actors on both left and right agree that the social media giant already has too much power.