I know, it’s hard to be shocked anymore by the scandal du jour in this scandal-ridden administration, but this is BIG. (You’ve heard that before too?)
CNN is reporting news about Jared Kushner and the Russia probe that is rocking Trump’s inner circle. They’re GAGGING –and not in a good way. A pivotal moment has arrived in the West Wing in the ongoing personnel wars that have raged during the last year. (It seems like FOREVER, right?)
#1: Yesterday it emerged Tuesday that chief of staff John Kelly downgraded the top secret security clearance for the President’s son-in-law in a bid to clear up a scandal over whether top administration players are qualified to access the most sensitive intelligence.
#2: The Washington Post published a bombshell report that at least four countries had discussed how to use Kushner’s sparse experience, financial troubles and intricate business arrangements to manipulate him. If foreign countries, like Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates had acted on conversations about how to manipulate Kushner (this according to current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports) this is a BIG problem. The international kind.
#3: Hours later, CNN reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is asking questions about Trump’s business dealings with Russia before the President’s campaign, a potentially significant development in the investigation.
This all put Kushner’s role as a top foreign policy adviser to Trump in doubt (they were always in doubt for other reasons) because he’ll have access to less government secrets and cannot see POTUS’s Daily Brief, a collection of spy community finds prepared for this ill-prepared commander in chief.
This new downgrade appears to make it nearly impossible for Kushner to do his job. Of course, the White House and his lawyer say that’s not true. But how can he carry out his duties running the Middle East peace process or liaising with top Gulf powers if he is not privy to the latest top secret intelligence.
Kushner could be asked to leave meetings in the White House or force top intelligence or foreign policy officials to avoid the top secrets matters in meetings that Kushner is in with Trump.
Phil Mudd, a former CIA and FBI official, now a CNN national security analyst said,
“He can’t see intercepted communications — that’s top secret, he’s now downgraded to secret … he can’t see the most secret CIA information about their informants. He can’t see some of the stuff our Western allies see.”
Unless Kushner gets cleared by the FBI for a permanent security clearance (or gets a waiver from Trump, which is more likely) his days as a White House staffer may be numbered.
Ivanka Trump just led a controversial US mission to South Korea’s Winter Olympics during flaring nuclear tensions with North Korea. Her husbands’s exit would mark sesmic earthquake in Trumpland.
Remember, Trump bragged he would hire the “best people in the world” to serve in his administration. The alleged mishandling of classified material by Hillary Clinton was practically the lynchpin of his entire campaign.
CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali said on Tuesday,
“This is a stunning blow to President Trump. This is a big deal … he must be fuming.”
Last week, Trump told reporters he would let his chief of staff decide what to do about his son-in-law’s clearance but said more than once that Kushner had done an “outstanding job.” Unless you are sightless or looking the other way, this was more than a hint to Kelly that Trump’s Kushner kept in the top secret loop.
Trump has warned that he would NOT put up with Mueller digging into his finances.
This new report asks the question (again) whether his past (Russian) business dealings were ever a target for him to be blackmailed or compromised.
Jared & Ivanka also lost their own personal White House PR spinner yesterday. The fact that Kushner had lost his high-level security clearance is just the kind of story that Josh Raffel knew how to spin. Raffel resigned Monday as a senior communications aide in the (WTF?!) Office of American Innovation. An unusual relationship, but one that dated back before the with the couple before the surprise 2016 election, where EVERYONE including Trump’s driver, got high level jobs they were NOT qualified for. Raffel had worked for the New York crisis P.R. firm Hiltzik Strategies, alongside now-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks…
Yesterday, Hicks refused to answer any questions by the House Intelligence Committee about the transition or the last year in the White House and that she has sometimes had to tell “white lies” for Trump. But she said she had not lied about “anything substantive”. Yeah, OK. Republicans are just going to just buy that? Say it with me…
(Photo, YouTube; via CNN)