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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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Y&R Star Kristoff St. John Autopsy Report rule Heart Disease as His Cause of Death

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According to the autopsy report, Kristoff St. John was discharged from a mental health facility just 2 days before his death. The report says he was admitted after threatening to harm himself.

The report also states that St. John died from heart disease and alcohol abuse … according to a report from the L.A. coroner’s office.

The ‘Young and the Restless’ star’s official cause of death is listed as hypertrophic heart disease and is categorized as accidental, according to the report. The disease makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood and often goes undiagnosed.

As for the “accidental” label — that’s because St. John was apparently on an alcohol binge at the time of his death.

News broke last month that 52-year-old St. John was found dead at his home in San Fernando Valley. Law enforcement sources say one of the actor’s friends went to check on him and found his body. Police and paramedics responded, and pronounced him dead on the scene.

Another source that was close to St. John’s states the actor checked himself into UCLA Medical Center in January for depression issues, and he had just been released a few days before his death. Reports also states that St. John’s depression was partially linked to his son, Julian’s suicide in 2014. It also seems to be the likely trigger for St. John’s heavy drinking at the time of his death.

As you know, around the 3-year anniversary of Julian’s suicide in 2017, St. John’s allegedly threatened to take his own life with a gun … and cops placed him under a 72-hour hold for psychiatric evaluation.

St. John had played Neil Winters on ‘The Young & the Restless’ since 1991 — earning 9 Daytime Emmy Award nominations for the role. He also won 10 NAACP Image Awards.

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Wendy Williams Reveals She’s Getting Treatment for Addiction

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Wendy Williams just made a very personal revelation — she’s now getting round-the-clock help to deal with addiction issues.

She made a very emotional announcement Tuesday on her talk show … revealing she’s currently living in a sober house somewhere in the Tri-State Area — of NY, NJ & CT — and has been for some time now. Wendy teared up quite a bit as her audience listened intently.

Wendy talked about battling cocaine addiction in the past, but never sought treatment to stay clean … until now, that is. She didn’t specifically say what substance she’s addicted to now. Wendy added she has a 24-hour sobriety coach, and spoke lovingly about the “brothers and sisters” in addiction with whom she’s living now.

She took an extended leave from her show back in mid-January and didn’t return until a couple of weeks ago. As you know … she also told viewers last year she was suffering from Graves’ disease before taking a 3-week hiatus.

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Attorney Gloria Allred says Third Sex Tape Surfaces of R. Kelly

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Another sex tape has surfaced that purportedly shows R. Kelly with minors – and attorney Gloria Allred is representing the guy who claims to have found it and turned it over to cops.

Allred just held a press conference in NYC, where her client, Gary Dennis, came forward to explain how he found the tape, and why he’s speaking out now.

Dennis, who says he has no connection to R. Kelly whatsoever, claims he recently found this new sex tape while going through old VHS tapes of his own. He says he initially discovered the tape as a “sports tape,” but that it also had R. Kelly’s name on it.

Dennis goes on to say that he thought the R. Kelly part of the tape would feature a concert of his, but later discovered it was a sex tape as he continued to watch past the sports content. He says he doesn’t know how this tape turned up in his possession but says he watched it and saw R. Kelly engaging in sex acts with what he perceived to be underage black girls … more than one.

Dennis didn’t go into much detail about what he saw on the tape but did say that the girls on camera were doing and saying things based on R. Kelly’s instructions. Dennis also says the girls appeared to be underdeveloped and that the only man on tape — who he claims looked a lot like R. Kelly — seemed to be in charge of the camera.

The guy says the tape appears to have been produced in the 1990s … adding there’s no indication of where it was filmed.

Allred says they’ve turned over the sex tape to law enforcement officials from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. She wouldn’t comment one way or another on whether she’d personally seen this new tape herself. However, Allred says she believes more tapes of R. Kelly are in circulation.

This tape would be the third one handed to law enforcement in the last month. Attorney Michael Avenatti has already turned over 2 tapes to prosecutors in Chicago … one of which prompted the 10 count indictment against R. Kelly for aggravated sexual abuse.

Over the last week, we have had 5 other individuals contact us with tapes that they claim show R. Kelly having sex with underage girls. Upon investigation, they don’t and the individuals would have no reason to have such a tape. Publicizing this “evidence” undermines the process.

Speaking of Avenatti, he appears to have responded to Allred’s press conference … and seems to be casting doubt on the veracity of her client’s claims.

BTW … Allred already reps a number of R. Kelly accusers, including two women who say he targeted them after a Baltimore concert in 1995. One of those women, Latresa Scaff, says R. Kelly had sex with her without her consent in a hotel room … this after he’d already plied the then-underage girls with alcohol and drugs at an after-party following his concert.

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