Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump under fresh scrutiny after whistleblower's account on security clearances
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s children play a starring role in a memo from House Oversight Committee Democrats detailing claims made by a White House whistleblower who raised concerns about high-level security clearances that were given to 25 officials after they were initially denied access to top secret information.
According to a source familiar with the whistleblower’s testimony, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are two of three unnamed White House officials described in the memo. Kushner was identified as “Senior White House Official 1” and Ivanka was described as “Senior White House Official 2” in the memo, which was written and released on Monday, the source told Yahoo News.
The memo was sent from Democratic Oversight Committee staffers to the committee members. It summarized an interview Democratic and Republican committee staffers conducted with White House security adviser Tricia Newbold on March 23. Newbold, the adjudications manager in the personnel security office of the White House, has worked there as a nonpartisan career employee for over 18 years.
According to the memo, Newbold claimed decisions that she and other career officials made to deny individuals security clearances were routinely “overturned by senior officials in order to grant the employees access to classified information.” Last year, Newbold began keeping track of all the employees who were granted clearances after first being denied them and the memo said “her list eventually grew to 25 officials, including two current senior White House officials.”
“These individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct,” the memo said.
The memo described Newbold as having gone to the committee because she “strongly believes Congress must intervene immediately to investigate and reform the White House security clearance process.” Newbold did not respond to a request for comment on this story and a spokesperson for the Oversight Committee Democrats also declined to comment.
None of the 25 officials on Newbold’s list were identified in the memo, but there were sections detailing her allegations against three specific individuals who were described as “”Senior White House Official 1, 2, and 3.” The source familiar with Newbold’s testimony said Kushner was the first anonymous official and Ivanka was the second. The source did not reveal the identity of “Senior White House Official 3.”
The memo stated Newbold claimed Kushner’s clearance was initially denied “after the background investigation revealed significant disqualifying factors, including foreign influence, outside activities … and personal conduct.” According to Newbold, that decision was overruled by the director of the personnel office, who noted the disqualifying activities “occurred prior to federal service.” Before joining his father-in-law in the White House, Kushner was an executive at his family’s real estate company, which has actively tried to woo foreign investors.
“Senior White House Official 2,” who the source said is president Trump’s daughter, is also described as having had clearance issues. The memo said Newbold claimed an initial clearance reviewer “wrote an ‘extremely thorough’ 14-page adjudication summary” in Ivanka Trump’s case “that described multiple disqualifiers, including foreign influence and outside activities.” Afterward, Newbold said the director of the personnel office told her “do not touch.” When Newbold stepped aside, she said the director ultimately granted the clearance. Before entering her father’s administration, Ivanka worked for Trump’s real estate company and her own fashion brand, both of which courted foreign interests.
There have previously been reports that president personally intervened after clearances for Ivanka and Kushner were denied. Abbe Lowell, an attorney for both Ivanka and Kushner, has previously said the couple’s clearances were “handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone.” Lowell declined to comment on this story and referred questions to the White House, which did not respond.
Along with the memo, the Oversight Committee released a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone requesting Newbold’s full list of “approximately 25 individuals who were granted security clearances or eligibility to access national security information despite recommendations to deny their applications.” Cipollone did not respond to a request for comment.
A Democratic committee aide told Yahoo News they would be unable to identify the 25 officials in question without receiving the list.
“The Committee has requested that the White House turn over the list to the Committee,” the aide said.
In the letter, the committee also requested information from the Executive Office of the President People Information Center database for nine current and former White House officials, including Kushner, Ivanka and national security adviser John Bolton. The aide said all nine of these officials were not necessarily among those who were initially denied clearances and said the records were being requested based on “previous public reporting” about issues with their clearances.
Republicans on the Oversight Committee released their own memo objecting to “Chairman Cummings’s unilateral and partisan investigation into White House security clearances.” That rebuttal said the Democrats’ memo amounted to “cherry-picked excerpts from Ms. Newbold’s transcribed interview” that were designed to justify a continuing investigation into the clearance process.
“Chairman Cummings solicited this material from Ms. Newbold despite Ms. Newbold’s stated reservations about discussing highly personal information about White House officials. We did not intend to release any material from the interview; however, Chairman Cummings’s reckless decision to release cherry-picked excerpts forces us to provide this supplemental information,” the Republican staffers said.
The Republican memo also argued Newbold had “limited” knowledge about the clearances in question and said GOP members of the committee were given short notice about her interview. It also noted that Newbold acknowledged the Trump administration had “improved some aspects of the security clearance processes” since last year.
— Additional reporting by Mike Isikoff.
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