White House chief of Staff John Kelly and Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, are at somewhat of a crossroads when it comes to the issue of having access to sensitive information.
Trump has given the final say of whether or not Kushner should receive permanent security clearance to Kelly, who is reportedly not going to recommend a waiver be granted for Kushner but doesn't plan to resign if Trump eventually were to issue one, according to Politico.
"That’ll be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot and General Kelly will make that call," Trump said at a news conference last week. "I won’t make that call. I will let the general . . . make that call."
The president also praised his son-in-law as a "high-quality person," who he added, has been treated "unfairly."
"He's a high-quality person. He works for nothing. No one ever reports that. But he gets zero," Trump said on Friday.
Of course, with his executive power Trump can solve Kushner's security clearance woes instantaneously, but he's been hesitant about the likely backlash of that decision in the media, one White House aide told Politico. The White House has struggled to run a tight ship, and Kushner has worked in the administration and has had access to sensitive government secrets since day one, despite having never passed an FBI security clearance. Kelly has known since last fall that Kushner would not receive a permanent clearance from the White House security office due to information the FBI has received about him. Details of the information are still unclear.
"If it starts preventing him from doing what he wants to do, he’ll figure out a workaround," one senior administration official told Politico. "All of this stuff is basically just cosmetic talk."
The news comes as Kelly has called for an overhaul to the security clearance process in the aftermath of the White House fumbling the domestic abuse scandal that involved former staff secretary Rob Porter. The memo of proposed changes put forth by Kelly called for a "renewed emphasis on training and best practices for handling classified information" and said high-level access would be prohibited for aides who have struggled to obtain a permanent clearance.
Apparently, that standard doesn't apply to Kushner, as Kelly reaffirmed his confidence in him after the memo was unveiled.
"As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico," Kelly said, according to Politico.
Trump's use of Kelly as plausible deniability is nothing new for his administration. The president has made a name as a brash and bold personality, but on several occasions he has punted contentious decisions to others in order to avoid any further political controversy. A perfect example of that is how he passed the issue of DACA to Congress, which set the stage for him to blame the Democrats.
Trump has put Kelly in a peculiar position, and though he is unlikely to overtly support Kushner's security access, it doesn't look like he will do anything to step in his way, either. Another win for Trump.