CNN reports the president pressured his staff to grant Ivanka a permanent security clearance, against recommendations from his then-chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn. The news comes just days after the New York Times reported that the president also ordered his staff to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner top-secret security clearance, despite concerns from the intelligence community and the White House legal team.
Ivanka denied her father's involvement in the couple's obtaining their security clearances as recently as early February. "There were anonymous leaks about there being issues [with our clearance]," she said in an interview with ABC's Abby Huntsman. "But the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance, zero."
Huntsman then asked Ivanka whether the couple had received special treatment to get their permanent security clearances one year after joining the administration, to which the first daughter only replied: "No."
EXCLUSIVE: Ivanka Trump says she and her husband Jared Kushner received no special treatment from her father when obtaining their top security clearances.— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2019
"The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance, zero.” https://t.co/88dUizY8Ht pic.twitter.com/MsanC4qzQC
But CNN and the Times' reporting show that the president did give the couple special treatment. Ivanka and Jared joined the administration in early 2017 and were first given interim security clearances. After former White House aide Rob Porter was accused of domestic violence in February 2018, Kelly changed the security clearance system. Kushner, who had faced questions from intelligence officials over his family's ties to foreign governments in their real estate business and about how he had failed to disclose past contacts with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, saw his temporary clearance downgraded. The couple had long feuded with the embattled chief of staff, and took Kelly's decision as retaliatory, according to CNN.
In the months after, Trump pushed for both Ivanka and Jared to obtain their permanent security clearances — a highly unusual move. Traditionally, the White House’s personnel security office has discretion to grant clearance to individuals based on the results of background checks conducted by the FBI. In the rare instances that there's a dispute over whether someone should be granted clearance, the White House counsel is supposed to make the call. Only in extraordinary cases does the president overrule that decision. But that's exactly what Trump did by ignoring Kelly and McGahn's recommendations and granting the couple clearance anyway.
Trump has denied being involved in the process or favoring Javanka. "I was never involved with the security," he told the Times in January. "I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people, actually. But I don't want to get involved in that stuff."
Reader, he was lying, too.