Donald Trump says John Kelly will decide on Jared Kushner's security clearance

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump said on Friday (Feb 23) that he would leave it up to John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, to decide whether Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, will continue to be able to view top-secret information.

Kushner has been operating on a temporary security clearance despite his access to some of the nation's most closely guarded secrets and his role in high-level activities like Middle East peace negotiations.

Like others in the White House, Kushner has failed to secure a permanent security clearance because of issues raised by the FBI during his background check, according to officials and others briefed on the matter.

He is one of several dozen White House officials operating with only interim clearances, an unusual situation more than a year into Trump's presidency.

In a memo to the White House staff last week, Kelly said he would cut off high-level access to many of the White House aides who had been unable to get a permanent clearance. That has led to an internal struggle between Kelly and Kushner, who has resisted losing access to highly classified information.

Asked whether he would provide a waiver to Kelly's policy so that Kushner could continue to have high-level access, Trump said on Friday that he would leave that up to his chief of staff.

"I will let General Kelly make that decision, and he's going to do what's right for the country," Trump said at a news conference with Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia. "I have no doubt he will make the right decision."

Trump said he had inherited a "broken system," suggesting that it takes too long for White House employees to have their background screened by investigators.

While the federal security clearance system has long been criticised as broken and has a backlog of hundreds of thousands of pending applications, senior White House officials almost always have their applications expedited so they can be cleared within weeks and perform their duties.

It is highly unusual for multiple senior officials to spend months serving with only interim clearances, a problem Kelly privately began talking about fixing in September.