Tensions are rising in the White House after chief of staff John Kelly downgraded Jared Kushner’s security clearance, according to Axios.
The outlet reported on Wednesday that the decision to revoke Kushner’s security clearance could lead to a power struggle between the two officials.
Kelly’s decision to change Kushner’s status from top-secret to secret will likely reduce Kushner’s prominent role in international negotiations, according to sources who spoke with The New York Times. The demotion also means he will not have access to certain intelligence documents, like the President’s Daily Brief.
What this means: Kushner will lose access to nearly all NSA reporting (i.e., intercepted communications, among other elements). Whether or not he could've been successful before, he no longer can be an effective Middle East mediator. https://t.co/tb7fUOBJUv— Ned Price (@nedprice) February 27, 2018
The change to Kushner’s security status followed Kelly’s announcement earlier this month that he would revoke the top security permissions of officials who had been granted top-secret status on an interim clearance and awaiting permanent approval since June 1, 2017, or earlier.
This gives new meaning to the term “overdue.” Kushner had no business accessing highly sensitive, classified info for more than a year, and nothing done today can right that wrong. https://t.co/UxMIzKYwY8— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) February 27, 2018
While Democrats welcomed the news of Kushner’s demotion, Axios reported that the downgrade was wreaking havoc within the White House. The news site printed a sensational quote from an unnamed administration official, who said, “Javanka and Kelly are locked in a death match. Two enter. Only one survives.”
One source hinted that Kelly would be forced to depart, telling Business Insider, "Kelly is now just another staffer who could get fired any day of the week by Donald J. Trump.”
Although the Kelly-Kushner battle has prompted speculation that one must leave, rumors have frequently circulated about Trump’s discontent with other White House officials. At various times, outlets have reported the president was deeply dissatisfied with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. All three remain in their positions.
It would be inexpedient and sensational to presume the current tensions will have any deep significance. They certainly could, and they could signal important staffing changes within the administration. But it would be prudent to acknowledge that the specter of administration reshuffling has been used to distract the populace from policy changes.
While it's believable that the Kelly-Kushner tensions are sowing internal discord, the Trump White House has adeptly manipulated public attention to focus on the prospect of staffing disorder rather than the legislation being promoted and passed.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Aaron P. Bernstein / Debbie Hill