WASHINGTON – The senior White House official whose security clearance was denied last year because of concerns about foreign influence, private business interests and personal conduct is presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to people familiar with documents and testimony provided to the House Oversight Committee.
Kushner was identified only as “Senior White House Official 1” in committee documents released this week describing the testimony of Tricia Newbold, a whistleblower in the White House's personnel security office who said she and another career employee determined that Kushner had too many “significant disqualifying factors” to receive a clearance.
Their decision was overruled by Carl Kline, the political appointee who then headed the office, according to Newbold's interview with committee staff.
The new details about the internal debate over Kushner's clearance revives questions about the severity of the issues flagged in his background investigation and Kushner's access to government secrets.
Last year, President Donald Trump directed his then-chief of staff, John Kelly, to give Kushner a top-secret security clearance, despite concerns expressed by career intelligence officers.
Security clearance experts said the issues raised in Kushner's background investigation were significant.
“It's a big deal,” said David Kris, a senior Justice Department official during the administrations of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and a founder of the consulting firm Culper Partners.
“The kinds of concerns that she mentioned are very serious,” he said. “Senior staff at the White House - and particularly relatives of the U.S. president - are incredibly attractive targets for our adversaries seeking to gather intelligence or exert covert influence.”