Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner addressed new concerns about his top-secret security clearance in an evening interview on April 1.
Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is said to be among more than two dozen White House officials whose security clearances were allegedly denied by career staff in the White House Personnel Security Office, only to have them approved by staff supervisors.
“Over the last two years that I’ve been here, I’ve been accused of all different types of things and all those things have turned out to be false,” Kushner told Fox News.
“When I came to Washington, I had a very successful business career. I had extensive holdings, and I disclosed all my holdings to the Office of Government Ethics. They told me what to divest, what to keep, and what rules to follow,” he said.
At the heart of the controversy is Tricia Newbold, a career employee in the Personnel Security Office, who contacted congressional leaders to express what she called “grave” concerns.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) acted on Newbold’s concerns and conducted a nine-hour, closed-door interview without a single Republican committee member present—contrary to established practice. The interview took place at 8:30 a.m. on March 25, outside of regular committee hours.
On April 1, Cummings released a press statement referring to Newbold as a whistleblower who “has come forward at great personal risk to warn Congress—and the nation—about the grave security risks she has been witnessing first-hand over the past two years.”
Cummings also announced his intention to subpoena Newbold’s former supervisor, Carl Kline, who now works at the Department of Defense. Cummings followed through during an April 2 committee meeting, but not before ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), confronted him on the record.
“That’s how we’re going to do investigations in the Oversight Committee? Talk to one person and then issue a big press statement so you can get some headlines?” Jordan asked.
“Now, today, we’re going to subpoena a guy who just sent us a letter saying he’s willing to come here voluntarily? I’ve been on this committee for 10 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” he continued.
Security clearances are based on extremely sensitive personal information, and probing them is meant to damage the president, Jordan claimed in a response memo to Cummings’ statement.
Cummings’ April 1 announcement was made shortly after Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee announced a hearing of their own on April 3 to formally authorize subpoenas for special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, even though Mueller found no evidence of wrongdoing by Trump or his campaign.
Democratic Judiciary Committee members also plan to request a new round of documents from five former Trump associates.
The cascade of new subpoenas is in line with promises to investigate the Trump administration dating back to the November 2018 midterm elections.
During the April 2 Oversight Committee hearing, Jordan further decried Cummings’ tactics.
“Frankly, it gets worse. Because we’ve got another resolution with three more subpoenas,” Jordan said, outlining the committee’s planned investigations of the Commerce Department, Department of Justice, and an unnamed witness who Jordan said has already testified.
Other Democrats on the committee, however, expressed strong support for looking further into White House security clearances.
“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,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
In his nine-page response memo, Jordan said Cummings had “cherry-picked” excerpts of Newbold’s nine-hour interview, and that the 25 examples of overruled recommendations she cited include nonpolitical officials such as a Government Services Administration custodian.
Jordan knocked down other claims used to justify the security clearance investigation, which he called a “reckless decision.”
“Chairman Cummings’ investigation is not about restoring integrity to the security clearance process, it is an excuse to go fishing through the personal files of dedicated public servants,” he wrote.
For his part, Kushner told Fox that he is grateful to have played a role in implementing the president’s foreign policy objectives during the past two years, as well as certain domestic priorities like criminal justice reform.
“Because of the president’s leadership, I think the world is safer today,” he said.
Kushner also spoke to other controversies that he described as “conspiracy theories.”
“We’ve had a lot of crazy accusations, like we colluded with Russia. I’ve complied with all the different investigations, whether they were the Senate, House, or special counsel. I’ve sat for nearly 20 hours of interviews with them,” he said.
“You could look at it and say that because the media’s been so distracted with Russia, Russia, Russia, and all of these crazy conspiracy theories, we’ve been able to operate underneath that level and just be really effective,” added Kushner.