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.
Cardi B Files Countersuit Against Ex-Manager, Asking for $15 Million in Damages
Prestige readers, the legal battle between Cardi B and her former manager is most definitely heating up.
Two months after Klenord Raphael, a manager known as “Shaft,” sued Cardi B for $10 million, the rap star countersued with a $15 million lawsuit.
Shaft’s lawsuit was filed in April, days after Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy album became a huge hit, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Shaft claimed he was “disappointed by her actions to freeze him out of her career” and sought 20% of Cardi B’s gross income. The lawsuit also alleged that Cardi B defamed Shaft in social media by accusing him of “robbing” her.
Cardi B’s countersuit filed Thursday seeks to render as void her contracts with Shaft. The lawsuit alleges that Shaft was “a self-serving and controlling personal manager” who breached “contractual and fiduciary duties to Belcalis Almanzar, an immensely talented and trusting young artist.” (Almanzar is Cardi B’s real name).
While Cardi B acknowledges having a contract with Shaft, her lawsuit argues that it was breached after WorldStar, which is Shaft’s company, failed to provide some of the services that they had agreed on, such as an independent business manager and certain payments that should’ve been made to her.
Cardi B is being represented by Paul LiCalsi, an entertainment attorney who has represented major artist such as The Beatles.
Cardi B recently became the first female rapper to have two songs that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100: I Like It and the Bodak Yellow.
Yvette Nicole Brown Replacing Chris Hardwick For ‘Walking Dead’ At SDCC
While the cabler hasn’t said anything publicly yet, Deadline has learned that the Talking Dead regular and Mom actor will replace long time TWD SDCC panel host Chris Hardwick on July 20. Hardwick was accused of emotional abuse and sexual assault by an ex-girlfriend last month. A frequent presence at the San Diego confab, the early afternoon panel for TWD and spinoff Fear The Walking Dead is Brown’s Hall H moderating debut for the AMC shows.
Details are still being finalized but the 11:15 – 1:15 gathering in the San Diego Convention Center’s biggest venue is expected to include Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Norman Reedus, FearTWD’s Kim Dickens, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Colman Domingo and Lennie James plus EPs Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman and new TWD showrunner Angela Kang among others. If past years are any indication also expect to learn the premiere date of the new season of TWD and see a sneak preview of what is expected to Lincoln’s final year on the show.
Though Hardwick denies the allegations from Chloe Dykstra, the Talking Dead frontman decided to “step aside” from his TWD and Doctor Who SDCC moderating duties on June 16, AMC announced After remaining mum for a few days, the cabler also said at the time that “while we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC.”
The decision came at the 11th hour as Season 2 of Talking with Chris Hardwick was set to premiere on June 17.
Brown’s pick as TWD moderator for SDCC can now only raise speculation that the ex-Community actor will end up as the host of Talking Dead when it returns this fall along with Season 9 of TWD.
Cardi B Makes History as First Female Rapper to Land Two No. 1 Singles
Cardi B just accomplished something no other female rapper has done.
Thanks to her latest single, I Like It, the New York native is the first female rapper with two songs to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the music magazine reported Monday.
The track featuring Latin music stars Bad Bunny and J Balvin was released in May, and is the latest single off Cardi B’s debut studio album, Invasion of Privacy.
It follows the release of club anthem Bodak Yellow (Money Moves), which climbed to the top of the Hot 100 in October.
Four other female rappers have previously landed No. 1 singles on the Hot 100, including Lauryn Hill with Doo Wop (That Thing) in 1998. Lil’ Kim had Lady Marmalade with Christina Aguilera, Mya and Pink in 2001. Shawnna was featured on Ludacris’ single Stand Up in 2003, and Iggy Azalea with Fancy featuring Charli XCX in 2014.
Before her album was released, Cardi B began to garner attention as a regular castmember on the VH1 reality series Love & Hip Hop: New York.
She is currently expecting her first child with rapper Offset of hip-hop trio Migos.
The two tied the knot last year, but never went public with their marriage until Offset let it slip on stage last month during the BET Awards that they are husband and wife. Cardi B has since confirmed the marriage on social media.
You can watch I Like It below….WARNING, the video contains profanity.