Donald Trump said Chief of Staff John Kelly will have the final word on whether security clearance will be revoked for his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Speaking on Friday at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump defended Kushner, saying that he is doing important work at the White House and not accepting a paycheck.
“He has done an outstanding job,” Trump said. “I think he has been treated unfairly. He is a high-quality person. He works for nothing. Nobody ever reports that. He gets zero. He doesn’t get a salary.”
The president said he trusts that Kelly will make the right decision on whether to revoke Kushner’s clearance or not.
“General Kelly respects Jared a lot,” Trump said.
“I will let General Kelly make that decision,” he added. “And he’s going to do what’s right for the country. And I have no doubt he will make the right decision.”
The White House has implemented new procedures on security clearances to ensure swift and comprehensive background reviews for staff with access to sensitive information.
The new procedures were prompted by the controversy over former staff secretary Rob Porter, who for months was able to review classified information on a partial security clearance even though the FBI had informed the White House that his two ex-wives had accused him of abuse.
Porter has since resigned, but questions have been raised about Kushner, who is believed to be operating on a partial security clearance. Kushner’s background review has reportedly been slowed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump blamed the White House controversy over security clearances on a “broken system” that he said was already in place when he took over.
The White House has said that it has followed protocols, even in the case of Porter, but that the security clearances process is flawed and allows for temporary clearances to drag on while a staffer’s background remains under review.
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) February 23, 2018