Breaking news from emails
Receive alerts of breaking news and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered the mornings from Monday to Friday.
By Laura Strickler, Ken Dilanian and Peter Alexander
WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner's request for a top-secret authorization was rejected by two White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about possible foreign influence on him, but his supervisor rejected the recommendation and approved the authorization, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the staff security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline rejected the Professional security experts and approved a secret authorization for incoming Trump officials despite the unfavorable information, said the two sources. They said that the number of rejections that were rejected was unprecedented, had happened only once in the three years prior to the arrival of Kline.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said Trump's White House attracted many people with an untraditional background who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which showed warning signs.
The background check by the Kushner FBI identified questions about his family's business, his contacts abroad, his trips abroad and the meetings he had during the campaign, the sources said, declining to be more specific.
The White House office only determines eligibility for secret and top secret authorizations. As a very important official, Kushner was looking for an even higher designation that would allow him to access what is known as "compartmentalized confidential information" or SCI. That material constitutes the government's most sensitive secrets, including transcripts of intercepted foreign communications, reports from CIA sources and other intelligence data apparently important to Kushner, whose portfolio covers the Middle East and Mexico.
The CIA is the agency that decides whether to grant SCI authorization to senior White House officials after conducting an additional background check.
After Kline annulled White House security specialists and recommended that Kushner obtain a top-secret authorization, Kushner's file went to the CIA to get a decision on SCI.
After reviewing the file, the CIA officials who made the authorization decisions refused, said two of the people familiar with the matter. One of them called the security division of the White House, wondering how Kushner even obtained a top-secret authorization, the sources said. Top secret information is defined as material that would cause "exceptionally serious damage" to national security if disclosed to adversaries.
The sources say that the CIA has not granted Kushner the authorization to review the SCI material. That would mean that Kushner lacks access to key information unless President Trump decides to nullify the rules, which is a prerogative of the president. The Washington Post reported in July 2018 that Kushner was not granted an "SCI" authorization. CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett said: "The CIA does not comment on individual security clearances."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the same thing: "We do not comment on security clearances."
NBC News could not communicate with Carl Kline for comments. Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, did not comment.
Representative Elijah Cummings, D.-Md., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said in a statement that the NBC News report generated questions he hopes to answer as part of his investigation, announced this week, on how the Trump administration has handled security authorizations.
"The system is supposed to be a non-partisan determination of an individual's ability to obtain authorization, not an ad hoc approach that nullifies professional career experts so that members of the President's family have access to the most secrets. of our nation, "he told NBC News.
"What he is reporting is what we all feared," said Brad Moss, a lawyer representing the people requesting the security clearance. "The normal line judges looked at the FBI report … they saw the concerns of foreign influence, but they were rejected by the quasi-political supervisor."
The sources said they did not know if Kline was in communication with senior White House political officials. They say that he annulled the career bureaucrats at least 30 times, granting secret authorizations to the officials of the Executive Office of the President or of the White House after the judges who worked for him recommended not to do so.
The reasons for denying an authorization may include debts, a criminal past or questions about foreign entanglements. Anything in the background of a person who can make her vulnerable to blackmail can be a factor.
The Kushner application followed the normal path for security authorization. He pbaded a "suitability review" in the White House and then went to the FBI for a background check.
After the FBI investigation, the case returned to the White House staff security office, where a career judge reviewed the FBI information, including questions about foreign influence and foreign business entanglements, sources said. .
The Washington Post, citing current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the subject, reported last February that officials from at least four countries had privately discussed ways in which they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of their complex trade agreements, his financial difficulties and his lack of information. Experience in foreign policy.
Among the nations that discuss ways to influence Kushner to his advantage, according to current and former officials, are the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the Post reported.
On the basis of possible foreign influence, the adjudicator considered Kushner's request "unfavorable" and handed it over to a supervisor.
The supervisor agreed to the "unfavorable" determination and handed it over to Kline, the head of the office at the time, who rejected the "unfavorable" determination and approved Kushner for the "top secret" security clearance, they said. the sources.
"Nobody else gets that kind of treatment," Moss said. "My clients would be beaten if they did that."
The sources also informed the NBC News career employees of the White House office that they did not agree with other measures taken by Kline, including the cessation of credit checks by security permit applicants. Sources said Kline cited a data breach at the Equifax credit reporting firm.
Kline is the subject of a complaint by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2018 seen by NBC News that was filed by Tricia Newbold, a current employee. Newbold has a rare form of dwarfism and the complaint alleges that Kline discriminated against her because of her height.
Your complaint states that in December 2017, Kline moved the security files to a new location that was too high and out of reach and said, "You have people, get them to get the files you need, or you can ask me."
His attorney, Ed Pbadman, told NBC News: "My client has been subject to constant discrimination by a ruthless supervisor who was destroying the personnel security division by granting security clearances on objections to the recommendations of the public workers".
In a letter to her family obtained by NBC News, Newbold described Kline's behavior towards her as "aggressive", which involved "emotional and psychological abuse" as of July 2017, a few months after he took office.
In the same letter, Newbold wrote that he also had serious concerns about how Kline "continually changes policy" and makes "reckless security judgments." He added that Kline's decisions "if disclosed, may cause embarrbadment and negative attention to the administration."
Newbold expressed concern about Kline's behavior with his second-level supervisor regarding his "hostility and integrity" in accordance with the EEOC complaint.
The EEOC confirmed to Newbold's attorney that an investigation of his claims was conducted. Now you are waiting to know if your client will be granted a hearing.
Laura Strickler is a research producer at the NBC News Research Unit based in Washington.
Peter Alexander is a White House correspondent for NBC News.
Julia Ainsley, Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube contributed