The rejection was overruled in a seriously sketchy fashion.
Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, holds a top-secret security clearance, which lets him access highly sensitive national security material. He shouldn't hold that clearance. In fact, NBC News reports, career security officials initially rejected his application — but they got overruled by someone hand-picked by Trump.
Much like his father-in-law, one of the concerns with Kushner is whether foreign governments have influence over him, given his financial dealings and other issues. Because Kushner's FBI background check highlighted those concerns, two career security specialists rejected Kushner's application for top-secret clearance.
In this administration, however, national security comes second to Trump's family getting access to power and state secrets, so the security specialists were overruled.
Instead, Carl Kline, who Trump appointed as director of the personnel security office, overruled the rejection and granted the clearance.
Kushner isn't the only one who benefited from Kline's lax view of national security. Before Kline took office, career security officials had been overruled only once in the previous three years. But Kline has already overruled career experts in at least 30 cases — granting top-secret clearances to White House employees even though there was unfavorable information about those people.
Kushner also applied for an even higher-level clearance than top-secret, NBC reports, but the CIA rejected that out of hand. After reviewing Kushner's file, sources told NBC, CIA officials "balked" — and one called over to the White House security division to ask how Kushner even got even a top-secret clearance in the first place.
The GOP has been protecting Kushner for a long time. When Republicans were still in control of the House, they blocked a bill that would have prohibited security clearances for anyone in the Executive Office of the President who was under a criminal investigation. This was shortly after it had been reported that the FBI was investigating Kushner as part of the Russia probe.
It was just two days ago that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, said he was going to take an in-depth look into the security clearance process at the White House, noting that the Trump administration and transition team had engaged in "grave breaches of national security."
In light of Thursday's news, Cummings issued a statement saying that his investigation "explicitly covers" Kushner, and that the security clearance system is supposed to be non-partisan rather than "an ad hoc approach that overrules career experts to give the President’s family members access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets."
This feels very similar to what happened with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. There, a senior Department of Justice (DOJ) ethics official found that Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing Robert Mueller's investigation to avoid the appearance of a conflict. But partisan political advisers to Whitaker overruled that, and Whitaker did not step aside.
This administration is rife with conflicts of interest, security breaches, and more. But now, the Democrats control the House — which means that Trump and his family can no longer count on oversight committees to look the other way.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.