The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump intervened to get Kushner a top-secret clearance. Congress should investigate.

Jared Kushner speaks with President  Trump in the Oval Office at the White Houseon Dec. 21, 2018.
Jared Kushner speaks with President Trump in the Oval Office at the White Houseon Dec. 21, 2018. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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A PRESIDENT enjoys a fair amount of discretion when it comes to designating subordinates for access to the nation’s secrets. But reports that President Trump personally intervened to get his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret clearance raise serious concerns that Congress must investigate.

While Mr. Trump’s insular leadership style is hardly suited for the White House, nepotism is not the primary concern in this case. The main worry is that secrets may be shared inappropriately. Mr. Kushner’s clearance was reportedly granted despite the concerns of intelligence officials. The nature of their concern is not entirely clear, though The Post reported last year that the government had received indications that foreign governments were interested in taking advantage of Mr. Kushner’s complex family business arrangements, its financial needs and his lack of foreign policy experience.

Mr. Kushner held a temporary top-secret clearance early in the Trump presidency. In February 2018, then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly cracked down on officials with this interim status, including Mr. Kushner, who got a lower level of clearance, for “secret” information. In May 2018, Mr. Kushner went up a notch again to a top-secret clearance, no longer interim, although not the highest-level access to sensitive, compartmented information.

How that happened is the subject of new reports in the New York Times and The Post that Mr. Trump personally intervened and ordered Mr. Kelly to grant Mr. Kushner the elevated status, even though the White House Counsel’s Office and Mr. Kelly had serious reservations, apparently based on information from professionals in the intelligence community. Both wrote contemporaneous memos recording their concerns. Since then, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, have said the president did not intervene. The latest reports would mean they both were dishonest.

Should Mr. Kushner continue to serve as a White House official and as an emissary from the president, with access to classified materials, if the underlying concerns about his clearance remain unresolved? That is a legitimate question for Congress. It should investigate and ask for the documents, including the memos about Mr. Trump’s role. While the president extended a helping hand to his son-in-law, last August he peevishly revoked a security clearance from former CIA director John Brennan, a longtime public servant with deep experience in the intelligence field. Mr. Trump yet again sends a terrible signal to the tens of thousands of government officials who have received security clearances and work every day to protect the integrity of the nation’s secrets. It bears repeating: Government is a public trust, not a family playground.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: Trump’s latest corrupt move for Jared Kushner may blow up in his face

Jennifer Rubin: Nepotism rules exist for a reason. Jared Kushner shows why.

James Downie: Democrats should investigate the Kushner-MBS connection

Karen Tumulty: Which is scarier — that Trump doesn’t read his daily intel briefing, or that Jared Kushner does?

Dana Milbank: Prince Jared finds himself in the wrong fairytale