Jared Kushner's Security Clearance: Critics Say Ivanka Trump's Husband Shouldn't Have Access to Top U.S. Secrets Due to Undisclosed Russia Contacts

RTS19B3Y2
U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance is being called into question. Carlos Barria/Reuters

Democrats and security experts are calling for President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's security clearance to be revoked. The reason: Kushner withheld repeated meetings with Kremlin-linked Russians from his initial top-secret security clearance application.

On Saturday Kushner confirmed that he sat in on a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer—who allegedly had Kremlin connections—alongside Paul Manafort, President Trump's campaign chairman, and Donald Trump Jr.

The day before the meeting, Trump Jr. forwarded Kushner an email containing messages in which he was told the lawyer represented the Russian government and wanted to discuss Moscow's plan to help the Trump campaign win the 2016 election.

The New York Times first reported on the meeting after Kushner disclosed it in his recently revised security clearance application forms—more than a year after it occurred.

Kushner has been operating on an "interim" security clearance as he seeks top-secret clearance to work alongside his father-in-law. The higher clearance would give Kushner—who is married to Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka—access to America's most closely kept secrets.

"It's a question about the potential for blackmail, which is one of the biggest things security clearance investigators are looking for," Jacob Parakilas, a U.S. national security researcher at the international affairs think tank Chatham House, told Newsweek.

"It's about honesty and about your vulnerability to having things exposed. It's troubling that those things weren't disclosed originally."

Related: Kellyanne Conway uses flash cards to explain collusion

Kushner's legal team has been going back and filling in the blanks of seven years of his contacts with foreign government officials. These details are required on the security clearance forms to ensure applicants aren't beholden or tied to any foreign government.

The application process lead to the revelation that Kushner met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in December. During the meeting, Kushner sought a secret communications back channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin from Russian diplomatic facilities.

Kushner also reportedly met the same month with Sergey Gorkov, the president of the state-run Russian bank VEB who trained with the Russian security service (FSB). The bank is currently under U.S. sanctions imposed after Moscow annexed Crimea.

In April Kushner's lawyer Jamie Gorelick said the omissions were an "administrative error" and "there was no intent to obscure any foreign meetings, including those with Russia."

"You want to make sure you get the information right the first time" on the forms, Parakilas said—"especially where it concerns potential vulnerability to blackmail and potential counterintelligence issues."

President Trump first requested clearance for Kushner in November 2016, days after his election victory.

The Kushner revelations come as Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller continue to investigate whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia in its efforts to help the GOP nominee win the election. The CIA, the NSA, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a report earlier this year that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered this interference.

Given the nature of Kushner's meeting with the Russian lawyer last June, "it stretches credibility to say he simply forgot it when he initially filled out his forms," said President Barack Obama's ethics czar Norm Eisen in an interview with The Guardian. "That puts him on the hook for false statements liability, possibly."

"The pattern of omission by Mr. Kushner and others in Donald Trump's circle of their Russia connections increasingly points to a consciousness of guilt."

In a June letter to the Trump administration, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee expressed "serious concerns" about who is handling sensitive information in the White House—specifically citing Kushner.

These concerns have reached a fever pitch after the latest revelation about Kushner's meeting with the Russian lawyer. "I don't know why Jared Kushner still has a job," Senator Chris Murphy, the Democrat from Connecticut, told The Guardian Wednesday.

Kushner "allowed the president of the United States, the vice-president, every spokesperson in the White House to openly lie about his contacts with the Russian government," Murphy added, referring to the Trump administration's repeated denials that anyone on the campaign had contacts with Russians.

The meetings put officials deciding on Kushner's clearance in an "acutely discomforting" position, said Joe Devanny, a security analysis research fellow at King's College, London, who studied the Trump transition team.

"If the on-going allegations are substantiated, they would raise serious doubts about Kushner's retention of security clearance," Deveanny said, on the grounds of potential "foreign influence" for his meetings with representatives of foreign governments and potentially his "personal conduct" for omitting the information on his initial application.

"You could imagine that officials would feel a degree of pressure (without any suggestion that the administration would exert pressure) to decide in favor" of giving Kushner full security clearance, he said, "given Kushner's position in the president's inner circle."

Parakilas warned against drawing conclusions about Kushner without a full picture of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials.

"A lot of this stuff will only be revealed," he said, "through the investigations that Robert Muller and House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting."