On the surface, it would seem Gen. Kelly downgrading Jared Kushner’s Top Secret clearance is a matter of standard housekeeping procedures.
Digging a bit deeper, it’s a fair bet that Kelly was not only deeply influenced by his 40+ years in the Marine Corps warrior ethos, but also that he has a firm grip on the reality of cut-throat politics.
As reported by Alexi McCammond of Axios;
Chief of Staff John Kelly downgraded Jared Kushner’s security clearance on Feb. 23 from “Interim Top Secret” to “Interim Secret,” according to an administrative staffer involved in the HR process for handling clearances. The White House declined to comment on this story.
Still dealing with Department of Justice foot dragging in completing security clearances, Kelly is stuck with a number of his White House staff stuck in a weird “interim” clearance limbo.
As McCammond correctly cites the difference between a Interim Top Secret clearance and a Interim Secret clearance;
- Interim Top Secret/SCI: Gives access to sensitive compartments of intelligence (SCI) that are restricted to a small group of “trusted, highly vetted and scrutinized users who need it to perform their duties,” David Wade, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State John Kerry, told Axios. That information is deemed so classified that if made public, it could have national security implications. Handling is so rigorously enforced and protected.”
- Interim Secret: Would not have access to certain classified information, like the president’s daily briefing. “You may be cleared for a level but that doesn’t mean you have a ‘need to know,'” an FBI officer told Axios.
Especially in the fallout of presidential aide Rob Porter’s accusations of spousal abuse, through no fault of his own, Porter still held an Interim Top Secret clearance. You can blame Obama holdovers for still taking well over a full year to complete the job at hand.
Besides, while Kushner may have held an Interim Top Secret, he was essentially overqualified for his normal duties.
As McCammond noted;
Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Kushner’s work won’t be affected. “The new policy announced by General Kelly will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President.”
So why is Gen. Kelly’s downgrading of Kushner’s clearance a big deal?
As the president recently was quoted regarding the question of Kelly, Kushner and clearances, “General Kelly will make that call. I won’t make that call.”
With little doubt, this isn’t a case of Gen. Kelly “gunning” for Jared Kushner… this is more a case of the general covering his boss’s six. John Kelly would rather he take the heat from both the Democrats and their yapping Yorkie attack dogs in the media, than to see President Trump hung out to dry.
Besides, it’s always good for Gen. Kelly to know that his boss trusts him to the point of knocking his own son-in-law down a peg on the totem pole.