President Donald Trump's son-in-law, White House special adviser Jared Kushner, is still working in government on an interim security clearance as his permanent clearance remains under review. Several lawyers who specialize in clearance law have asserted that Kushner should have his access to government secrets revoked after he omitted dozens of foreign contacts and business interests from his application form.
As of Dec. 1, Kushner was still waiting for his permanent security clearance to be approved. The special adviser has been working with an interim clearance, which gives him access to classified government materials, since he joined the Trump administration in January.
Officials who seek a security clearance must disclose all foreign contacts in an SF-86 form, detail their financial history and submit to a litany of FBI interviews. Kushner has revised his SF-86 form three times after failing to originally disclose 100 foreign contacts. He also omitted one of his companies on a financial disclosure form. After it was reported in July that Kushner had attended a June 2016 meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, he revised his clearance form again.
Seven law firms specializing in security clearances have stated that Kushner would not be able to obtain a permanent clearance after those errors, Newsweek reports.
"It's one thing if you call in and admit to forgetting one or two contacts ... But when you forget a hundred, that's concerning," said Greg Rinckey, a partner at the Tully Rinckey firm. "The whole point of security clearances are to minimize threats. All this shows a lack of candor on Kushner's part, a major issue with receiving a clearance."
On Oct. 13, National Background Investigations Bureau Director Charles Phalen stated during testimony before a House oversight hearing that Kushner's omissions on his original SF-86 form were unprecedented.
"I have never seen that level of mistakes," Phalen said, according to CNN.
Kushner's attorney, Jamie Gorelick, stated that the omissions were because "Mr. Kushner's SF-86 was prematurely submitted ... He submitted that supplemental information to the FBI and is cooperating fully with its background investigation."
A White House official told Politico that Kushner's permanent clearance had not been approved yet because he was seeking the highest access and that the extended timeline of the application review was "completely normal."
Principal attorney Joseph Kaplan of the Passman & Kaplan firm asserted that Kushner's situation was not normal.
"If Jared Kushner was working for any other department in the U.S. government and these issues arose ... about falsifying a clearance or omitting information ... He'd be off the job," Kaplan said.
Kaplan added that if Kushner "was anybody else, his security clearance would have already been denied."
The clearance law experts agreed that Kushner still possessed an interim clearance because he was Trump's son-in-law.
"The real question is, Why has his clearance been denied?" said senior attorney Alan Edmunds of Edmunds Law Firm. "Of course, the real reason it hasn't been denied yet is because nobody has the moxie to tell the president his son-in-law can't be working in the White House, even though he shouldn't be."
Attorney Sean Bigley, who had conducted background checks at the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration, noted that Trump could grant Kushner a permanent clearance through executive authority.
"It would be extremely rare -- almost unheard of -- though [Trump] could order a clearance to be granted, or reverse an adverse decision made by adjudicators if he wanted to," Bigley said. "But most of the time we see these cases are left to nonpolitical career personnel."
Kushner was tasked with a massive list of initiatives when he joined the Trump administration. The president had appointed him to broker peace between Israel and Palestine, reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, solve the opioid epidemic, reinvent how government functions and serve as a U.S. liaison to China and Mexico.
On Nov. 21, sources familiar with the Trump administration disclosed that White House chief of staff John Kelly had downsized Kushner's list of responsibilities to focus exclusively on the Middle East.
"Kelly has clipped his wings," a high-level Republican told Vanity Fair.