Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff in May to grant his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Senior administration officials were troubled by the decision, which prompted the then White House chief of staff, John Kelly, to write an internal memo about how he had been ordered to give Kushner the top-secret clearance, according to the report.
The White House counsel at the time, Donald McGahn, also wrote an internal memo outlining concerns raised about Kushner and how McGahn had recommended against the decision.
The Times said the memos contradicted a statement made by Trump in an interview with the newspaper in January that he had no role in Kushner’s receiving his clearance. In an interview with ABC News this month, Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife, said: “The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.”
The subject of Kushner’s security clearance has long plagued the White House and been a source of scrutiny for members of Congress.
While the exact obstacles Kushner encountered in his clearance process are not publicly known, officials privately raised concerns over ties between Kushner and his family’s real estate company and foreign investors and entities.
Kushner was forced to amend his federal disclosure forms on multiple occasions after he was found to have omitted more than 100 names on a list of foreign contacts.
Among them was a meeting with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the US, during the 2016 campaign, and the infamous Trump Tower meeting that same year with a Russian lawyer. The latter was arranged by Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, after he was told of an effort by the Russian government to help elect Trump and offered incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
Kushner also met during the presidential transition at the end of 2016 Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian state-owned bank that was subject to US sanctions.
Intelligence officials had further warned the Kushner might be a target for manipulation by at least four foreign governments based on his business dealings, lack of foreign policy experience and financial debt.
Asked about the Times report on Thursday, the White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “We don’t comment on security clearances.“
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell, said in an email that White House and security clearance officials last year asserted that Kushner’s clearance was “handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone”.
“New stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time,” Mirijanian said.
Reuters contributed to this report
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