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.