Trump had 'absolute right' to order Jared Kushner top-secret security clearance despite White House concerns, Kellyanne Conway says

  • President Donald Trump had "the absolute right" to order that his son-in-law Jared Kushner be given top-secret security clearance over White House concerns — if that happened — Trump's senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said.
  • The New York Times reported that Trump last May ordered his then-chief of staff John Kelly to give his senior advisor Kushner a top-secret security clearance.
  • Kushner's clearance was objected to by White House counsel Donald McGahn, and was the subject of concern among intelligence agencies.
President Donald Trump and his senior advisor Jared Kushner arrive for a meeting with manufacturing CEOs at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. February 23, 2017.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Donald Trump and his senior advisor Jared Kushner arrive for a meeting with manufacturing CEOs at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. February 23, 2017.

President Donald Trump had "the absolute right" to order that his son-in-law Jared Kushner be given a top-secret security clearance over White House concerns — if that is in fact what happened — Trump's senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said Friday.

Also Friday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone demanding "full and immediate compliance" with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's pending request for document and witness interviews about the circumstances of Kushner's security clearance.

"Today, I am writing in light of grave new reports that—just eight days after the Committee launched this investigation—President Trump may have falsely claimed that he played no role in the security clearance process," wrote Cummings, the committee's chairman.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Trump last May ordered his then-chief of staff John Kelly to give Kushner, himself a senior Trump advisor, a top-secret security clearance despite objections from White House counsel Donald McGahn and worries about Kushner from the CIA.

The Times report contradicts repeated denials by Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump — Kushner's wife — that the president did not order aides to give Kushner that level of security clearance after sustained concerns about him from intelligence agencies.

In his letter to Cipollone, Cummings wrote, "If true, these new reports raise grave questions about what derogatory information career officials obtained about Mr. Kushner to recommend denying him access to our nation's most sensitive secrets, why President Trump concealed his role in overruling that recommendation, why General Kelly and Mr. McGahn both felt compelled to document these actions, and why your office is continuing to withhold key documents and witnesses from this Committee."

Kushner's clearance was delayed for more than a year because of questions about his "foreign and business contacts, including those related to Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Russia," the Times reported, citing multiple sources familiar with the situation.

Conway on Friday would not address whether the Times report was accurate.

"We don't discuss security clearances," she said at the Conservative Political Action Conference, echoing Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, despite Trump and Ivanka Trump's own comments on Kushner's clearance.

"But the president has the absolute right to do what was described," Conway said.

Conway added, "We don't as a White House generally comment on security clearances ... If Ivanka chose to comment she probably has knowledge that we don't have so she has the right to do that."

A spokesman for Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, told NBC News that in 2018 White House and officials responsible for security clearances said "that Mr. Kushner's security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone."

"That was conveyed to the media at the time," said spokesman Peter Mirijanian. "And new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time," referring to what the White House and security officials had claimed.