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Top Justice Dept. official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

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A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

The Feb. 9 phone call from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to White House Counsel Donald McGahn came amid growing public scrutiny of a number of administration officials without final security clearances. Most prominent among them is Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who has had access to some of the nation’s most sensitive material for the last year while waiting for his background investigation to be completed.

A week after the call from Rosenstein, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly announced that staffers whose clearances have not been finalized will no longer be able to view top-secret information — meaning that Kushner could stand to lose his status as early as Friday.

As president, Trump can grant Kushner a high-level security clearance, even if his background investigation continues to drag on. But Trump said Friday that he would leave that decision to Kelly.

In his phone conversation with McGahn, Rosenstein intended to give an update on the status of Kushner’s background investigation. He did not specify the source of the information that officials were examining.

Justice Department officials said Rosenstein did not provide any details to the White House about the matters that need to be investigated relating to Kushner.

“The Deputy Attorney General has not referenced to the White House any specific concerns relating to this individual’s security clearance process,” spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the status of Kushner’s clearance or on information relayed by Rosenstein to McGahn.

Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, declined to comment.

In a statement to The Washington Post last week, Lowell said he had been assured by officials that there was nothing unusual about the delay in Kushner’s security clearance.

“My inquiries to those involved again have confirmed that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner’s level whose process is delayed, that it is not uncommon for this process to take this long in a new administration, that the current backlogs are being addressed, and no concerns were raised about Mr. Kushner’s application,” Lowell said in a statement on Feb. 16.

Kushner’s interim clearance allows him to view both top-secret and sensitive compartmented information — classified intelligence related to sensitive sources. With that designation, he has been able to attend classified briefings, get access to the president’s daily intelligence report and issue requests for information to the intelligence community.

Security clearance experts said it is rare to have such a high level of interim clearance for such a long period of time. Typically, senior officials do not get interim access to top-secret and sensitive compartmented material for more than three months, experts said.

The day before Rosenstein’s call to McGahn, The Post reported that Kushner was among dozens of White House personnel who were relying on interim clearances while their FBI background investigations were pending.

White House officials have complained that they have had trouble getting information from the Justice Department and FBI about the status of delayed clearances, including Kushner’s. People familiar with the Feb. 9 call said Rosenstein was returning a White House phone call seeking guidance on the status of his background investigation, among those of others.

Rosenstein intended to speak to Kelly, but the chief of staff was not immediately available, so he ended up talking to McGahn instead, according to three people familiar with the call.

In the call, Rosenstein did not say whether the information that had come to the attention of the Justice Department was learned by the FBI in its standard background clearance investigation of White House staff. Rosenstein also oversees the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has scrutinized Kushner’s contacts with foreign officials and business dealings as he examines Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

There are conflicting accounts about whether Rosenstein discussed with McGahn the significance of the information and its possible impact on Kushner’s clearance. Two people said the deputy attorney general told McGahn the Justice Department had obtained important new information, suggesting it could be an obstacle to his clearance process. One other said Rosenstein did not discuss the nature of the ongoing investigation.

Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel in the Obama administration, said administration officials should view Rosenstein’s alert as a strong reason to revoke Kushner’s interim top-secret access.

“It seems to me that he should have restricted access to highly classified material until the resolution of those issues,” Bauer said.

Kushner’s inability to obtain a final clearance has frustrated and vexed the White House for months. As someone who meets regularly with foreign officials and reads classified intelligence, he would typically have a fast-tracked background investigation, security clearance experts said.

During the last six months, McGahn privately discussed the slow pace of Kushner’s background investigation with other senior aides, including with Kelly in the fall, according to a top administration official. Kelly expressed frustration with Kushner’s access to classified material on an extended interim clearance, according to the official. But McGahn and Kelly decided to wait for the FBI to complete its background investigation and took no action at the time to change his access.

Their wait-and-see mode ended abruptly last week, when Kelly issue a new policy that would block staff with interim clearances from receiving top-secret information as of Friday.

The changes were prompted by intense scrutiny that has followed domestic-abuse allegations against Rob Porter, the president’s former staff secretary, who was also working under an interim top-secret clearance.

The move puts a “bull’s eye” on Kushner, a senior official told The Post last week.

Kelly has told associates that he is uncomfortable with Kushner’s uncertain security clearance status and his unique role as both a family member and staffer, according to people familiar with the conversations. He has said he would not be upset if the president’s son-in-law and his wife, Ivanka Trump, left their positions as full-time employees.

On Friday, Trump said he would defer the question of Kushner’s access to his chief of staff.

“I will let Gen. Kelly make that decision, and he’s going to do what’s right for the country,” the president said during a news conference. “And I have no doubt that he will make the right decision.”

In a statement about Kushner issued earlier this week, Kelly said he had “full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico.”

Inside the White House, officials have discussed concerns that the delay in Kushner’s clearance is due in part to repeated updates he made to a form detailing his contacts with foreign officials.

He filed three amendments last year to the questionnaire, after failing to fully disclose contacts reaching back several years. Kushner has said the omissions were inadvertent errors.

Investigators scrutinize those activities to determine whether a person could be subject to influence or blackmail by a foreign government and can be trusted to guard classified information.

Ordinarily, security clearance experts said, the failure to completely disclose all contacts would jeopardize an applicant’s chances of obtaining final clearance.

In addition, Kushner’s actions during the transition have been referenced in the guilty plea of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted he lied to the FBI about contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Prosecutors said Flynn was acting in consultation with a senior Trump transition official, whom people familiar with the matter have identified as Kushner.

 

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Jennifer Lopez flaunts her abs ahead of 50th birthday: ‘Queen of aging backwards’

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Jennifer Lopez is gearing up to celebrate her 50th birthday in a matter of days. But fans are predicting that she might actually be aging backward after she posted a photo on Instagram on Thursday with her abs on full display.

The singer, who’s currently on her It’s My Party tour, took to her social media to give a shout-out to the fast-approaching Leo season while posing in a workout set.

“How is it fair to be this good looking,” one person commented, while another said, “Yes mama shine like no other.”

Fellow singer Kacey Musgraves also took to Lopez’s comments to deem her the “Queen of aging backward.”

Lopez, whose birthday is on July 24, won’t be taking to the stage on her birthday. It’s likely she’ll be celebrating the milestone year in Florida, where she’ll perform in Orlando on July 23, and then in Miami on July 25. Her fourth concert tour, which she recently started documenting on her YouTube channel, ends on August 11.

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TV ONE’S ORIGINAL MOVIE “SINS OF THE FATHER” PREMIERES TONIGHT AT 8 P.M. ET/7C

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New Thriller Kicks Off Month-Long Slate of LOVE, LIES & MURDER Movies and Features Deitrick Haddon, A.J. Johnson, Clifton Powell, Terayle Hill, Angela Davis, and Danny Pardo
Watch An Exclusive Clip Here!

(ATLANTA) – July 7, 2019 – TV One’s original film SINS OF THE FATHER premieres Sunday, July 7 at 8 P.M./7C, immediately followed by an encore presentation at 10 P.M./9C. The film stars Deitrick Haddon (The Gospel), A.J. Johnson (Baby Boy), Clifton Powell (Ray), Terayle Hill (Merry Wishmas), Angela Davis (I Feel Pretty) and Danny Pardo (SEAL Team). SINS OF THE FATHER is the first movie to kick off TV One’s month of LOVE, LIES & MURDER films which features a series of stories that explore the dark side of love including deceit, betrayal, obsession, and jealousy.

Inspired by TV One’s true crime programming, SINS OF THE FATHER follows Detectives Phylicia Richardson (Johnson) and Perez (Pardo) as they investigate the vicious murder of first lady Karen Burnett (Davis), the beloved wife of Pastor Clarence Burnett (Haddon). The crime sends shock waves through the couple’s close knit Atlanta community and the police are forced to take a deeper look into the Burnett’s inner circle, including Pastor Burnett’s son Robert Banks (Hill). As the interrogation unfolds, family secrets of abuse, infidelity, lust and cruelty are revealed within the Burnett household. The detectives soon discover that the ungodly actions of one person can have a deadly impact on many.

“In a culture where #ChurchHurt has been the trending topic, this film will give the viewer insight on how wolves in sheep’s clothing operate,” said gospel artist and film star Haddon. “Buckle your seatbelt because it’s about to get real!”

SINS OF THE FATHER is written by Katrina O’Gilvie and directed by Jamal Hill, with Leah Daniels-Butler and George Pierre as Casting Directors. The film was produced by Swirl Films, with Eric Tomosunas serving as Executive Producer. Keith Neal, James Seppelfrick, Ron Robinson and Darien Baldwin serve as producers. For TV One, Karen Peterkin is the Executive Producer in Charge of Production, Donyell McCullough is Senior Director of Talent & Casting, and Brigitte McCray is Senior Vice President of Original Programming and Production.

(more…)

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LAPD opens internal affairs inquiry in Nipsey Hussle murder

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Los Angeles police have opened an internal affairs investigation into why the woman who drove the getaway car in the aftermath of rapper Nipsey Hussle’s killing was sent home when she tried to turn herself in during the manhunt for the shooter.

The LAPD’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed Monday that the Internal Affairs Group is investigating a desk officer’s response at the 77th Street station. Capt. Gisselle Espinoza, an LAPD spokeswoman, said the matter is under administrative investigation and she couldn’t release more details.

FILE - This April 4, 2019 file photo shows Eric Holder, the suspect in the killing of rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his attorney Christopher Darden. Holder is charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack outside Hussle's The Marathon clothing store. Court documents show that Hussle and Holder had a conversation about “snitching” shortly before Hussle was shot. (Patrick T. Fallon/Pool via AP)© Provided by The Associated Press FILE – This April 4, 2019 file photo shows Eric Holder, the suspect in the killing of rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his attorney Christopher Darden. Holder is charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack outside Hussle’s The Marathon clothing store. Court documents show that Hussle and Holder had a conversation about “snitching” shortly before Hussle was shot. (Patrick T. Fallon/Pool via AP)

Grand jury testimony shows the woman who drove the suspect, Eric R. Holder, away from the March 31 shooting had gone to the station because her car and license plate were on the news.

“Oh my God,” the woman, whose name has not been released, testified that she told her mother. “My car is on here and everything, and I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know this boy was gonna do this.”

Her mother called police but was told detectives wouldn’t be available until 6 a.m. the next day, grand jury transcripts show.

When they arrived at the station the next morning, the front desk officer said “don’t worry about it” and “don’t listen to the news,” the transcript shows. The woman left the station, returning later to speak to detectives after her mother called police again.

LAPD Detective Cedric Washington testified that the woman had been turned away.

“That is true according to the desk officer that I spoke to about it,” Washington said.

“OK. He apparently missed a briefing in the chief’s press conference that day, I guess,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said.

Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said Monday in an email that the internal investigation began a few days ago.

“While the initial indications pointed to a miscommunication, we have initiated an administrative investigation to ensure all policies and procedures were followed,” Rubenstein wrote. “We will review all statements that have already been given, interview all of the individuals involved, and look for any potential body cam video that may have captured the interchange.”

Rubenstein told the Los Angeles Times last week there didn’t appear to be any misconduct.

“She was not making herself clear of what she was doing,” Rubenstein said, noting that the officer believed the woman was reporting that someone was just recording video of her car on television.

A grand jury on May 9 returned an indictment charging Holder, 29, with murder, attempted murder and other felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.

The woman testified that Holder was a friend she had known for about a month and that she believed the two were just stopping at a shopping center for food.

She saw Hussle standing outside his South Los Angeles clothing store, The Marathon, expressed her excitement and took a picture with him after overhearing Holder and Hussle’s conversation about “snitching.”

The woman and Holder had pulled out of the shopping center and into a nearby gas station when Holder loaded a gun, told her he would be back and walked back to the shopping center, the woman testified.

She said she heard two gunshots, and Holder returned moments later telling her to drive. She said she didn’t learn Hussle had been shot until later that night.

Witnesses heard Holder and Hussle, both of whom have ties to the Rollin’ 60s street gang, discussing “snitching” minutes before Hussle was shot, according to the transcripts.

Holder was arrested two days later about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the crime scene.

Hussle, 33, whose real name is Ermias Ashgedom, was a long-respected rapper who had just broken through with a Grammy-nominated album before he was shot and killed.

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