White House's Kelly tightens security clearance procedures post-scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, under pressure to act, strengthened the process for security clearances for President Donald Trump's aides on Friday in response to a scandal involving a former official accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives.

Saying that recent events had exposed some "shortcomings," Kelly decreed that any interim security clearances for staffers whose background investigations have been pending since June 1 or before will be discontinued in a week.

The aim is to avoid a repeat of the case of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who worked for Trump for a year under a temporary clearance despite red flags raised by his government background check but not widely known.

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John Kelly and Rob Porter
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (R) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) walk to board Air Force One with U.S. President Donald Trump en route to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (R) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) walk to board Air Force One with U.S. President Donald Trump en route to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (R) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) walk to board Air Force One with U.S. President Donald Trump en route to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) leads White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter off of Air Force One as they arrive with U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Kelly has been under fire from some in the West Wing for his handling of the Porter case, and Trump confidants say the president has been sounding out his friends on possible replacements.

Dozens of officials, including Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are working under temporary clearances in the absence of final security clearance.

A new background system will also establish a process for updating senior officials on the end of a background investigation, Kelly said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said earlier this week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had completed its background investigation of Porter in July and submitted the findings to the White House.

The White House has yet to outline a clear timeline on who knew what and when about Porter's past, which includes accusations by his two former wives of domestic abuse.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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