Trump White House security clearance crisis: "Kushner problem" getting worse fast

Whistleblower says at least 25 people were granted security clearances by White House after initial denials

Published April 1, 2019 4:05PM (EDT)

Jared Kushner (Getty/Alex Wong)
Jared Kushner (Getty/Alex Wong)

President Trump faces a new scandal after a whistleblower has told Congress that the White House granted security clearances to at least 25 individuals whose applications had been denied through the usual process.

Tricia Newbold, a manager in the White House’s Personnel Security Office, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee during a private interview in March that two senior White House officials, as well as other people with sensitive access to the president, had failed their national security clearance evaluations, according to the New York Times. The report was based on a memo released by the Oversight Committee on Monday:

During her interview with Committee staff, Ms. Newbold stated that White House security clearance applications "were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security." She explained that she and other career officials adjudicated denials of applications for multiple security clearances that were later overturned by senior officials in order to grant the employees access to classified information.

Ms. Newbold explained that, starting in 2018, she began to keep a list of White House employees whose denials were overturned. Her list eventually grew to 25 officials, including two current senior White House officials, as well as contractors and individuals throughout different components of the Executive Office of the President. According to Ms. Newbold, these individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.

Although Newbold did not name the individuals involved, the Times has previously reported that Trump had instructed former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly to grant a security clearance to Jared Kushner, the president's his son-in-law, even though it had been previously denied. Kushner's access to confidential information has been questioned by administration critics who have noted that he filed inaccurate information on some disclosure forms.

"There's a Kushner problem at the White House," as Fox News anchor Shepard Smith put it last year. Smith added that Kushner's initial disclosure forms had not mentioned as many as "100 contacts with foreigners," including the now-infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and various other people.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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