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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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Music

Lizzo Trying to Manifest Banging Drake After New Song Name-Drop

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Lizzo says she name-dropped Drake in her new song to turn the tables on an age-old trope of rappers doing the same for women — but it seems she’s actually trying to bang the dude.

During an interview with Zane Lowe, the singer mentioned Drake on her new song with Cardi B, “Rumors,” because she felt it’d be fun to give society a taste of its own medicine — and in this context, that means flipping the script on rappers/male musicians name-dropping fine women in their tunes.

If you didn’t hear the bar yet, it goes … “Last year, I thought I would losе it // Readin’ s*** on the internet // My smoothie cleanse and my diet // No, I ain’t f*** Drake yet (Ha).”

The Drake thing seems to have come out of left field … but Lizzo explained further in the ZL sit-down, jokingly saying she hasn’t quite been able to manifest some bedroom boom with Toronto’s Certified Lover Boy — even though it sounds like she’d love to take a dip.

All kidding aside, Lizzo says she included the line as a way to turn what rappers have often done in music — namely, name-dropping ladies/would-be sexual exploits — upside down on its head. It’s true … fellas have done that for a long time in the genre .

As far as their real-life relationship … Lizzo says she kinda knows Drake, and that he’s super cool.

Still, it seems she does, in fact, want some of what he’s got — at least based on her Twitter activity shortly after this interview aired. She tweeted right at Champagne Papi for the whole world to see, writing … “Hey big head @Drake.” Classic “wyd” vibes for modern dating.

Aubrey hasn’t publicly responded yet … but wouldn’t that be something if he did??? Unfortunately for her, he seems to have his hands full with
Johanna Leia and other things these days.

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Boxer Gervonta Davis Involved in Minor Plane Crash, Documents Aftermath

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Gervonta Davis just, miraculously, walked away from a plane crash relatively unscathed — and it sounds like what’s hurting him the most in the aftermath are his feet … and his caboose.

The professional boxer went live Saturday to document a terrifying encounter he says he and his crew had just gone through after boarding a private jet … which apparently failed to properly take off and crash landed back down to the airport grounds it was trying to leave.

Thankfully, it doesn’t appear the aircraft got very far up before coming back down to Earth — because Gervonta and other passengers seemed more or less okay … with their health and bodies intact.

That’s not to say Gervonta wasn’t feeling some hurt afterwards — on his live feed, he noted that his booty was aching like no other … this while he wrapped his feet in gauze. He’s pretty jovial about the whole thing, which is great to see, but this could’ve easily been way worse.

Gervonta also was able to get some shots of the downed plane, and it sure looks like something went wrong internally. There were also fire engines that showed up on the scene to evaluate the damage and tend to anyone’s injuries. Again, though, most everyone seems to be fine … which is absolutely incredible, because it appears there were even children aboard, based on a photo Gervonta posted shortly before getting on his flight. His video doesn’t capture any kids, though.

It’s unclear what exactly caused the malfunction — but you can hear Gervonta and his friends speculate on what happened … seems like there might’ve been some overheating of some sort. They also appear to be discussing some of the flight maneuvers the pilot(s) were using in the air … and the group seems to think that may have attributed to it going down.

Stay tuned while we here at Prestige try to get a hold of Gervonta’s team for more answers.

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Drake Takes Shot at Kanye in New Verse, Calls Him ‘Burnt Out’

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Drake is stirring the pot again on his rap beef with Kanye West — taking a new shot at the guy in a song he just dropped with Trippie Redd … and it might be the ultimate insult.

The rapper is featured on TR’s new track, “Betrayal,” and at one point in Drizzy’s verse, he brings up Mr. West by name … acknowledging that they are, indeed, still apparently beefing — while also going so far as to call Kanye “burnt out” … and noting it’s irrelevant to him.

Here’s how the Kanye bar goes … “All these fools I’m beefin’ that I barely know // Forty-five, forty-four (Burned out), let it go // Ye ain’t changin’ s*** for me, it’s set in stone.” He adds … “Rollin’ stones, heavy stones (PinkGrillz) // Precious stone, let me make my presence known.”

The “Ye” reference could possibly be interpreted as “they” or “you” — but based on Drake touching Kanye’s exact age (44) … it seems clear he meant the former with some clever word play. The folks over at Genius heard it too … they wrote out the lyric as “Ye.”

Now, for some analysis — as to why Drake is randomly bringing up Kanye again after years have passed since they beefed, with Pusha T in the mix, is anyone’s guess at this point.

However, some people have a theory on these old foes — there’s been speculation of late that Kanye is, perhaps, trying to set up his “Donda” release so that it lines up with Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” album … which he’s on record as saying would be out by the end of summer at the latest. That’s just a few weeks away … and neither project has dropped.

There’s no evidence to prove it one way or another … but the fact that Kanye continues to delay the release date — with seemingly no end in sight — is curious in this context. That, coupled with the fact that Drake’s going after him anew, is even more eyebrow-raising.

In any case, we’re always here for some new beef. And, if it means more music from these two in the process … we’ll take it and then some. Ball’s in your court, Ye (we think).

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