President Donald Trump on Friday said that White House chief of staff John Kelly will ultimately “make that call” regarding whether to waive or revoke Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s interim security clearance.
During a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump responded to a question about Kushner’s clearance with praise for his daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as Kushner’s “outstanding” work.
“I think he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said of Kushner. “He is a high-quality person. He works for nothing. Nobody ever reports that. He gets zero. He doesn’t get a salary, nor does Ivanka, who is now in South Korea. Long trip. Representing her country. And we cannot get a better representative.”
Trump also touted Kushner’s work in the Middle East and claimed that Kelly — who he said “is doing a terrific job, by the way” — inherited a “broken” security clearance system. He left it up to Kelly to “make that call” regarding whether to waive Kushner’s security clearance.
“It shouldn’t take this long,” Trump said, apparently referring to the process of receiving a permanent security clearance.
He claimed that some of the staff members still waiting for a permanent clearance are “people with not a problem in the world,” and said Kelly will decide what to do about Kushner’s interim clearance.
“That will be up to Gen. Kelly. Gen. Kelly respects Jared a lot. And Gen. Kelly will make that call,” Trump said. “I won’t make that call. I will let the general, who is right here, make that call.”
Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was fired earlier in February amid allegations of domestic abuse, operated under an interim security clearance while the FBI probed the allegations. According to several reports, White House officials were aware of both the allegations against Porter and the impact on his clearance.
Kelly last week announced that he will revoke top clearances for any aide with an interim security clearance whose background check has been pending since last June or earlier.
Kushner, who has quietly updated his personal financial disclosure with foreign contacts and financial assets several times since he started working in the West Wing, has worked under an interim clearance for more than a year.
Trump on Friday said that Kelly is “going to do what’s right for the country” with regard to Kushner’s clearance.
“I have no doubt he will make the right decision,” Trump said. “Okay?”