Observers have long been concerned about President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner getting a security clearance in spite of conflict of interest issues — but it gets worse. This week at a House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) ripped into the Trump administration for their handling of security clearances, demanding that officials be subpoenaed to answer for their behavior since they’re not cooperating with the committee on their own. Since Democrats are the House majority, those subpoenas could easily emerge.
‘Folks are suggesting that we are conducting foreign relations with folks with security clearances via WhatsApp! Every day that we go on without getting to the bottom of this matter is a day that we are putting hundreds if not potentially thousands of Americans at risk. I mean, really, what is next — putting nuclear codes in Instagram DMs? This is ridiculous!’
Indeed — in a meeting late last year with the Oversight Committee, Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell confirmed that his client had used the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp to conduct official business, which has reportedly included conversations with individuals as high-ranking as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Lowell’s best defense was that Kushner is screenshotting the messages and sending them to his official email account so technically complying with recordkeeping laws!
Lowell said he could not confirm that Kushner had never transmitted classified information via the app — which besides flying in the face of national security standards, is deeply ironic considering the sheer volume of criticism the Trump team has lobbed at Hillary Clinton for supposedly mishandling sensitive information via her usage of a private email server while on the job in the Obama administration.
A fresh round of scrutiny of the security clearance issue has emerged thanks to longtime White House security adviser turned whistleblower Tricia Newbold, who told the Oversight Committee that during her time on the job, some 25 security clearance application denials from the security team had been overturned by someone higher up in the administration. That’s in addition to the report that President Donald Trump personally stepped in to ensure that Kushner got a security clearance as concerns raged about his potentially seriously compromising foreign ties. Newbold says that concerns about the other applicants were similar, centering on blackmail possibilities and foreign ties.
One of those who could have gotten past the security clearance process is currently serving national security adviser John Bolton, who is among those the House Oversight Committee named as a target in their security clearance probe, although they did not confirm who had or hadn’t originally been denied clearance.
In her remarks this week, Ocasio-Cortez praised Oversight Committee leadership for proactively protecting the whistleblower responsible for this information getting out, but reiterated that the panel has a “responsibility” to look further into the matter.
Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) fully backed her assertions, saying the issue constitutes “major stuff” that necessitates committee action.
Some of those originally denied clearances even had criminal backgrounds that set off the red flags — but that wasn’t enough to stop the Trump team from steamrolling over the national security system anyway.
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