This post has been updated with new information.
A White House whistleblower says that the Trump administration gave security clearances to “approximately 25 officials” whose applications had initially been denied by career staff—and a CNN report says that two of those officials are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
The whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, is the “Adjudications Manager” in the White House’s Personnel Security Office. During an interview with the House Oversight Committee on March 23, she made allegations that are outlined in a letter and memo that Democrats on the committee made public on Monday. According to the memo, Newbold—who worked previously under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama—says that “she and other career officials adjudicated denials of applications for multiple security clearances that were later overturned by senior officials in order to grant the employees access to classified information.” Newbold, who says she repeatedly raised internal objections about the administration’s behavior, was suspended from her job in January.
Earlier accounts in CNN and the New York Times had cited anonymous sources in reporting that Donald Trump personally approved Ivanka Trump and Kushner’s clearances over the objections of career security officials; Newbold’s on-the-record account discusses the cases of two current “senior White House officials” in detail. (The rest of the 25 officials whose denials were overridden, the Democratic summary says, include “contractors and individuals throughout different components of the Executive Office of the President.”) Here’s the first:
For example, in the case of one senior White House official (“Senior White House Official 1”), Ms. Newbold explained that both she and the first-line adjudicator issued denials after the background investigation revealed significant disqualifying factors, including foreign influence, outside activities (“employment outside or businesses external to what your position at the EOP entails”), and personal conduct.
Here’s the second, which alludes to Newbold’s supervisor Carl Kline, a political appointee:
According to Ms. Newbold, she indicated to Mr. Kline that the first line adjudicator had also recommended against Senior White House Official 2’s application for a security clearance. Ms. Newbold told Committee staff that the first-level reviewer wrote an “extremely thorough” 14-page adjudication summary that described multiple disqualifiers, including foreign influence and outside activities.
Ms. Newbold informed Committee staff that she told Mr. Kline that, based on this information, she agreed with the first line adjudicator and was planning to write up her own denial of the application.
It’s been previously reported that clearance officials were concerned that Jared Kushner’s various international business interests raised concerns that he could be subject to manipulation by deep-pocketed foreign governments. Ivanka Trump also has significant overseas business interests, while CNN has reported that “officials had concerns about granting Trump a clearance that were separate from those raised about her husband.” (It’s not clear what those concerns were.) Ivanka Trump is listed by the White House as an “advisor to the president,” and Kushner is listed as a “senior advisor to the president.”
All in all, it sounds like we’re learning that there may be some people in the White House who could potentially be improperly influenced by foreign governments. Scary!