White House chief of staff John Kelly and senior adviser Jared Kushner are locked in a battle to the professional death over the presidential son-in-law’s security clearance, a new report says.
In the aftermath of the Rob Porter scandal, Kelly declared that White House staffers whose security clearances have been pending since June 1 would no longer be able to see classified information. Awkwardly, that includes Kushner: One year into the job, he lacks a permanent clearance but has been receiving the top-secret Presidential Daily Brief and viewing classified material as part of his remit to improve relations in the Middle East and in Asia.
Porter, Kelly’s former staff secretary, left the White House last week, after two of his former wives claimed he abused them. For a time, it looked like Kelly might have to follow him out the door, and Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump were urging President Trump to replace him with more of a pushover, Vanity Fair reports.
But Kelly turned the tables by making the decree about clearances, which goes into effect today, and Kushner’s access to the president is in jeopardy. During a press conference with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday afternoon, President Trump followed the in-law’s rules of diplomatic engagement, saying that Kushner’s access is up to Kelly.
But the president has the right to override clearances and show classified information to anyone, a stipulation the rules-averse Oval Office surely knows. But Vanity Fair says that by issuing a red line, Kelly has pulled off a “political masterstroke” by training more spotlight on the president’s ethics, which will endure whether he stays or goes.
“This is Kelly’s way of saying, ‘it’s me or Jared,’” a Republican close to the White House told VF’s Gabriel Sherman. Issuing exemptions to Kushner “would create a political problem—the White House would have to explain why the president granted an exception to his family. This issue would continue in the event that Kelly were forced out. ‘Here’s the thing,’ the Republican official said. ‘If they fuck Kelly, he’s fucked them on the way out, because if Kelly goes, Trump still has to explain why he’s given an exemption to his son-in-law and daughter.'”