White House Chief of Staff John Kelly ordered an overhaul of how security clearances are handled following a storm of controversy after former staff secretary Rob Porter was allowed to remain in his job for months despite allegations of domestic abuse, Bloomberg informs.
“We should — and in the future, must — do better,” Kelly wrote in the five-page document, released by the White House on Friday, outlining his proposed changes to the clearance process.
Kelly’s proposals include formalizing communications among the White House, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies, all of which play a role in vetting potential West Wing employees. He also recommended limiting access to highly classified material for aides operating on interim clearances as well as new limits on how long employees are allowed to operate under the temporary clearances.
Kelly asked the FBI to inform the White House within 48 hours of discovering significant derogatory information about senior presidential staff.
The chief of staff also proposed discontinuing top-level interim clearances for some staff members whose security clearances have been pending since the beginning of June. That list may include President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.
Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said Kelly’s new policy “will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president.”
“My inquiries to those involved again have confirmed that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner’s level whose process is delayed, that it is not uncommon for this process to take this long in a new administration, that the current backlogs are being addressed, and no concerns were raised about Mr. Kushner’s application,” Lowell said in a statement.
Kelly and other White House officials have provided shifting accounts of how Porter’s clearance was handled, and some of the president’s advisers have recommended he replace the chief of staff.
Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, added to the concerns Wednesday, saying he would recommend limiting access to classified documents for anyone who hadn’t qualified for a permanent clearance.
“You can’t just say an interim allows me to do anything,” Coats said during a congressional hearing.