When it comes to handing out security clearances, giving White House officials access to highly sensitive, classified information, Donald Trump has a real mess on his hands. To hear the president tell it, he never overruled national security officials’ concerns and was “never involved” in the process.
That now appears to have been a lie. When U.S. officials balked at giving Jared Kushner a security clearance, for example, the president ordered John Kelly, the White House chief of staff at the time, to help Trump’s son-in-law anyway. What’s more, Kushner may not have been the only one to benefit from the president’s intervention in the process.
Not surprisingly, the House Oversight Committee requested information from the White House about possible security-clearance abuses. Team Trump promptly refused to cooperate with the inquiry – and the president himself peddled another lie on the subject.
But it now appears that Congress has at least some of the information Trump wanted to keep secret, not because the president had a change of heart, but because someone on his team went behind his back. Axios reported this morning:
From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents.
The Trump administration’s problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators.
Though we haven’t yet seen the materials, according to Axios report, the leaked documents offer a detailed timeline of how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump obtained security clearances.
But that’s not the only part of this that matters.
Let’s say the Axios report is correct. I don’t know that for sure, and the article hasn’t been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, but for the sake of conversation, let’s consider the implications of a story like this.
On the surface, the line of inquiry is itself important. If national security officials concluded, for example, that Kushner should not have access to classified information, and the president overruled them, it raises a series of questions that need answers, not the least of which is the revelations about Kushner’s background that gave intelligence professionals pause.
But then there’s the palace intrigue. If the president’s daughter and son-in-law have enemies inside the Trump White House, and those detractors are leaking potentially damaging information about them to Congress – including a committee led by Democrats – conditions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may soon get even worse.