Friday, February 23, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He whistled past the graveyard of Jared Kushner's inability to get a security clearance through proper channels.

At a White House press availability today, Trump was asked if he would override the normal security clearance background checks and give his son-in-law and "senior advisor" Jared Kushner permanent access to top secret information. Until now, according to Kushner's own lawyers, the approval process has stretched into its second year because of Kushner's multiple repeated failures failures to disclose required information. In theory, Kushner should have lost his temporary clearance today because of an order issued by Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Trump's rambling response to the question took over three minutes to deliver:
Well Jared's done an outstanding job, I think he's been treated very unfairly, he's a high-quality person. Uh, he works for nothing, just so, you know, nobody ever reports that, but he gets zero. He doesn't get a salary, nor does Ivanka, who's now in South Korea, long trip, representing her country, and we cannot get a better representative. In fact, the first lady, Melania, was telling me what a great impression she made this morning when she landed in South Korea. Jared is, um, truly outstanding, he's, he's, he was very successful when he was in the private sector. He's working on peace in the middle east and some other small and very easy deals. They've always said, "peace in the Middle East, peace between the Palestinians and Israel is the toughest deal of any deal there is." Now I've heard this all my life, that, as a former dealmaker, although now you can say maybe I'm a more of a dealmaker than ever before, you have no choice as President to do it right, but, the hardest deal to make of any kind is between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We're actually making great headway. Jerusalem was the right thing to do, we took that off the table. But Jared Kushner is right in the middle of that, and he's an extraordinary dealmaker. And if he does that, that will be an incredible accomplishment and a very important thing for our country. So General Kelly, who's doing a terrific job, by the way, is, uh, right in the middle of that. We inherited a system that's broken. It's a system where many people have just, it's taken months and months and months, to get many people that do not have a complex financial, you know, complicated financials, they don't have that, and it's still taken months. It's a broken system and it shouldn't take this long. And you know how, how many people are on that list. People with not a problem in the world. So that'll be up to General Kelly, and General Kelly respects Jared a lot, and General Kelly will make that call, I won't make that call, I will let the General, who's right here, make that call. But Jared's, uh, doing some very important things for our country, he gets paid zero. Ivanka, by the way, gets paid zero. She gave up a good and very strong solid big business in order to come to Washington because she wanted to help families and she wanted to help women. She said, "Dad, I want to go to Washington, I want to help women." And I said, "You know, Washington's a mean place." She said, "I don't care, I want to help women, I want to help families," and she was very much involved, as you know, in the child tax credit, and now she's working very much on family leave. Things that I don't think would be in the agreement if it weren't for Ivanka. And some of our great senators, et cetera. But she was very much in the forefront of, uh. So I will let General Kelly make that decision, and he's going to do what's right for the country, and I have no doubt he'll make the right decision. Okay? 
In essence, Trump was making three claims:
  1. That his daughter and son-in-law are important to the functioning of his administration, and noble people interested only in serving the greater good of the United States.
  2. That the decision about Kushner's ability to continue his voracious consumption of the nation's most sensitive secrets would be made on a purely professional basis by chief of staff John Kelly--who would surely "make the right decision."
  3. That the process in place for approving people for security clearance is "broken." 
Trump's anxiousness to make these points is likely related to the news, reported today by the Washington Post, that the FBI will not sign off on Kushner's clearance for the foreseeable future. The reason is the worst imaginable one, from Trump's perspective: Kushner cannot be given unfettered access to classified information because of what special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has uncovered about him.

Why should I be concerned about this?

  • The whole purpose of a security clearance is that it keeps sensitive information out of the hands of people who can be forced to reveal it.
  • The security of the United States is more important than Trump's need to indulge his children.
  • There is nothing broken about a system that doesn't approve people who shouldn't be approved.