Donald Trump Weighs Ending Security Clearances for Six Ex-Officials Who Have Criticized Him

White House says Trump could revoke clearances of ex-national security officials

President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of six former senior national security officials, the White House said Monday, moving to punish them for comments purportedly politicizing the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, without specifying.

The threat, which national security analysts described as unprecedented, prompted concerns it was an effort by the president to silence critics.

“An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic, and un-American,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Ms. Sanders told reporters that the administration is looking at the clearances of former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA Michael Hayden, former national security adviser and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Ms. Sanders said the individuals, many of whom are outspoken critics of the administration in the news media, lend “inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”

.. Millions of Americans hold security clearances, needed for many government and private-sector jobs. The practice of having senior national security officials retain clearance after leaving government is longstanding and serves various functions, national security officials and analysts said.

National security officials often go on to work in the private sector, particularly at defense contractors, and need access to classified information to support the government. Former officials keep clearances to assist in ongoing criminal and national security investigations. The clearances offer continuity between administrations on intelligence and national security matters, and also would enable former officials to return to active service in a national emergency and offer expertise.

.. “There really isn’t that much precedent of removing clearance of former national security official unless they are indicted or convicted of some criminal offense,” said Evan Lesser, president of ClearanceJobs, a career website. “But ultimately the president does have the power to grant or revoke clearances really to whomever he wants.”

.. Mr. Clapper, on CNN, said, “This is kind of a petty way of retribution for speaking out against the president.”

Kushner Resists Losing Access as Kelly Tackles Security Clearance Issues

Mr. Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the F.B.I. during their background checks

.. Mr. Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access

.. In the talks, the officials say, Mr. Kushner has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit.

.. But Mr. Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Mr. Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees, saying only that the president’s son-in-law will still have all the access he needs to do his job under the new system.

“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Mr. Kelly said in a statement the White House released on Tuesday in which he refused to address Mr. Kushner’s security clearance or elaborate on his memo.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kushner would need to review highly classified information. His current portfolio — which includes acting as an intermediary with Mexico, trying to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, participating in an economic dialogue with China and working on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement — seems unlikely to involve major intelligence or national security secrets. But Mr. Kushner, by dint of his relationship with Mr. Trump, has wide-ranging access to the president and the information that he sees, and senior advisers to the president typically require such access to perform their duties.

.. Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have been critical of Mr. Kelly in conversations with the president, who spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., surveying people about whether he should fire his chief of staff.

FBI Director Defends Handling of Background Check of Former Trump Aide

The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said his agency first flagged issues with its background check of Rob Porter to the administration in March, a timeline that conflicts with what the White House said it knew about the former aide’s past.

.. Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that the FBI last year gave multiple updates to the White House on its findings about Mr. Porter. After sharing a partial report on Mr. Porter in March, the FBI provided its completed background check on Mr. Porter to the White House in July, Mr. Wray said.

.. Last fall, White House counsel Don McGahn told Mr. Kelly there was “an issue” involving Mr. Porter’s clearance, according to an administration official, who said Mr. McGahn didn’t provide many details. Mr. Kelly was surprised to learn that Mr. Porter, 40, had been married before.

The chief of staff, a retired four-star general, also expressed dissatisfaction about the number of White House aides who were operating under interim security clearances. “His view was, ’We would never have this at the Pentagon,” the official said.

Rob Porter Is Donald Trump’s Kind of Guy Rob Porter Is Donald Trump’s Kind of Guy

On Wednesday, we learned that during a 2017 background check for the former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, his two ex-wives both told the F.B.I. that he had abused them

  1. His first wife, Colbie Holderness, gave the F.B.I. a photo of her with a black eye, a result, she said, of Porter punching her in the face during a vacation in 2005.
  2. Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, shared a 2010 emergency protective order she’d received after he punched in the glass on her door while they were separated.

.. The White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly knew about these allegations, which are said to be the reason the F.B.I. never gave Porter a full security clearance,

.. Porter’s past was apparently not considered a problem inside the White House until it became public. This tells us quite a bit about how seriously this administration takes violence against women.

.. Kelly reportedly urged Porter not to resign

.. President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders read a statement from Porter calling his ex-wives’ accounts “simply false” and part of a “coordinated smear campaign.”

.. In what was perhaps a rare outbreak of candor by omission, she didn’t bother with a pro forma statement that the White House condemns domestic violence.

.. “I was exposed to a far wider array of classified and sensitive information in the White House job than as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency,”

.. It’s hard to see why Kelly, who was supposed to be the disciplined adult in this administration, would cover for Porter. Unless, that is, he genuinely couldn’t grasp that domestic violence is a big deal.

.. the abuse charges were the origin of Trump’s derisive nickname for Bannon: “Bam Bam.”

.. Andy Puzder, the former head of Carl’s Jr. and Trump’s first nominee for labor secretary.

.. Trump himself was accused of domestic assault by his first wife, Ivana Trump

.. Hurt wrote that Donald Trump became enraged after scalp reduction surgery left him in pain, and blamed his then-wife, who had recommended the doctor.

.. Hurt describes Trump pinning back Ivana’s arms and ripping out her hair by the handful “as if he is trying to make her feel the same kind of pain that he is feeling.” Then, she told friends, Trump raped her.

.. residents create administrative cultures:

.. Willoughby described confiding in a Mormon official about her husband’s fits of rage. She was told to think about how Porter’s career might suffer if she spoke out. Powerful people in Washington seem to have been similarly worried, first and foremost, about protecting the ambitious and pedigreed young man.

.. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, and in The Daily Mail, the senator categorically dismissed the accusations and, whether he meant to or not, the women making them.

.. “Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name,” he said.

.. Later, after the black-eye photograph of Holderness was published, Hatch issued a statement saying that domestic violence is “abhorrent.” But after that, he gave an interview in which he said he hoped Porter would “keep a stiff upper lip” and not resign. “If I could find more people like him, I would hire them,” said Hatch

.. It’s not really a surprise that Hatch, who once said that Trump’s presidency could become the greatest ever, would treat serious allegations of abusing women as a personal foible unrelated to one’s professional capabilities. You basically have to see things that way to support Trump in the first place.

Jared Kushner Is China’s Trump Card

How the President’s son-in-law, despite his inexperience in diplomacy, became Beijing’s primary point of interest.

.. Kushner was intent on bringing a businessman’s sensibility to matters of state. He believed that fresh, confidential relationships could overcome the frustrations of traditional diplomatic bureaucracy. Henry Kissinger, who, in his role as a high-priced international consultant, maintains close relationships in the Chinese hierarchy, had introduced Kushner to Cui during the campaign
.. On at least one occasion, they met alone, which counterintelligence officials considered risky. “There’s nobody else there in the room to verify what was said and what wasn’t, so the Chinese can go back and claim anything,”
..  you think your background is going to allow you to be able to outsmart the Chinese Ambassador?
.. Americans are accustomed to reports of Russia’s efforts to influence American politics, but, in the intelligence community, China’s influence operations are a source of equal concern.
.. “The Chinese influence operations are more long-term, broader in scope, and are generally designed to achieve a more diffuse goal than the Russians’ are,”
.. Kushner often excluded the government’s top China specialists from his meetings with Cui, a slight that rankled and unnerved the bureaucracy. “He went in utterly unflanked by anyone who could find Beijing on a map,”
.. Kushner was “their lucky charm,”
.. “It was a dream come true. They couldn’t believe he was so compliant.”
.. By the end of the Obama Administration, seven White House officials were authorized to receive the same version of the P.D.B. that appeared on the President’s iPad. The Trump Administration expanded the number to as many as fourteen people, including Kushner. A former senior official said, of the growing P.D.B. distribution list, “It got out of control. Everybody thought it was cool. They wanted to be cool.”
.. Kushner’s difficulty obtaining a permanent security clearance has become a subject of fascination. Was it his early failure to disclose foreign contacts? Or did it have something to do with the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections?
.. Kushner had established links to China. A Kushner project in Jersey City, which opened in November, 2016, reportedly received about fifty million dollars, nearly a quarter of its financing, from Chinese investors who are not publicly named, through a U.S. immigration program known as EB-5, which allows wealthy foreigners to obtain visas by investing in American projects.
.. Ivanka Trump has her own business endeavors in China, where some of her branded handbags, shoes, and clothes are manufactured.
.. Trump would be “inundated with requests for thousands of calls from around the world,” they warned, through “campaign staff, outside advisers, and other third parties.” He must not accept them. Requests must be “methodically returned” in “a sequence of calls that will not create any diplomatic incidents or negative press stories.”
.. The President-elect must have a classified intelligence briefing before conversations with foreign leaders, and then conduct the meetings only when a note-taker and a national-security aide are present.
The aides suggested that Trump make five “waves” of calls over a number of days, starting with the United Kingdom and ending with Pakistan.

.. “Obviously, all that just got tossed aside,” a senior transition official recalled recently, because Trump was “excited that important people were calling him.”

.. In another break with protocol, Trump was accompanied to the meeting by his daughter and son-in-law, while they were still running their respective businesses.

..  he was urgently seeking an infusion of cash to repay a debt totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.

.. In 2007, the Kushner Companies had bought 666 Fifth Avenue, a forty-one-story office tower, for $1.8 billion, the highest price ever paid for a building in Manhattan at that time. The deal turned out to be a potential disaster for Kushner.

.. he was hunting for investors, in Asia and the Middle East, among other places, to shore up the building’s finances.

.. On November 16, 2016, Kushner had a private dinner with Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of China’s Anbang Insurance Group, to discuss Wu’s possible investment in 666 Fifth Avenue.

.. Months later, when the meeting was revealed, and Bloomberg News reported that the Kushner family stood to make as much as four hundred million dollars from the agreement with Anbang, Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, criticized it as a possible conflict of interest. The companies abandoned the negotiations.

.. In some cases, it was unclear whether Kushner was representing the transition or his business. On December 13th, at the recommendation of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, or V.E.B., a Russian state bank.

.. Schiff pointed to statements by V.E.B. and a spokesman for Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, which suggest that Kushner held the meeting in his capacity as head of the Kushner Companies.
.. On December 2nd, encouraged by the fiercest anti-China hawks among his advisers, including Steve Bannon, at that time his chief strategist, Trump took a telephone call from the President of Taiwan
.. Chinese officials turned to the man that Kissinger had recommended to them: Jared Kushner. Kushner later told others that he took on the China portfolio reluctantly, after “clamoring” Chinese officials called Trump Tower and asked for him by name.
.. “It was clear that heated arguments were taking place among the President’s advisers.” On one side, hard-liners, including Bannon, who has said he believes that China is “bent on world domination,” advocated a confrontational stance on trade and other issues. On the other, according to Russel, “Jared Kushner was described as adamant that Mar-a-Lago should be exclusively about bonding.” Russel continued, “We were told that the theory was to first establish a warm family friendship, using meals and Trump’s personal charisma.”
..  China overwhelmingly achieved its objectives: a soft-focus summit with regal photo ops and little talk of trade and other touchy subjects. It was also an auspicious occasion for the Kushner family. While Xi met with Trump, Beijing regulators approved three trademark applications from Ivanka’s company, to sell bags, jewelry, and spa services.
.. Somebody with more experience, tied to the old ways, may not have necessarily been able to pull off the Mar-a-Lago summit like we did.” He added that the officials who have criticized his approach to foreign affairs “usually get pretty uncomfortable when they’re not in control of something and it doesn’t go the way they want.”
..  Chinese officials said that Cui and Kushner, in meetings to prepare for the summit at Mar-a-Lago, discussed Kushner’s business interests along with policy. Some intelligence officials became concerned that the Chinese government was seeking to use business inducements to influence Kushner’s views.
.. But the intelligence reports triggered alarms that Chinese officials were attempting to exploit Kushner’s close relationship with the President, which could yield benefits over time.
.. Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch. Kushner and Ivanka Trump had known her for about a decade, and she was a regular guest at their Washington home. U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials have long speculated about Wendi Murdoch’s ties to the Chinese government
.. In November, the Chinese Society of Education issued a video quiz for primary-school students, which included the question “What number should you dial when you spot spying activities?”
.. The President’s children resist the argument that their undivested assets, their behavior, and their willingness to mix government service and personal profit present a target to adversaries and allies alike.
.. The senior transition official believes that’s a mistake. “They’re going to slowly, over time, get what they want out of him, and it’s not going to be obvious,”
.. Still, by his own description, he is as confident as ever that his instincts, honed in the family business
.. Porter read aloud from “The Inner Ring,” a 1944 oration by C. S. Lewis. It was Porter’s warning to his ambitious students about the temptations that haunt higher office, and the allure of favor-seekers.
..  “You will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world.”

Game of Trump

So far in life, Donald Trump has survived and thrived on the same philosophy espoused by Littlefinger in “Game of Thrones”: “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”

.. First we learned there were six, not four, people in the meeting, including a lobbyist who just happened to be a former member of the Soviet unit dealing in counterintelligence. Then we found out there were eight. Next, we’ll find out Putin was FaceTiming from Moscow.

.. Jared Kushner has had to amend his list of foreign contacts three times, adding more than 100 names that had somehow eluded him. “His lawyers have said this was inadvertent and that a member of his staff had prematurely hit the ‘send’ button for the form before it was completed,”

.. The Daily Beast recalled that back in the ’80s, when Goldstone represented John Denver and Michael Jackson, he went to Ethiopia for Band Aid, a rock concert to help famine victims, and managed to gain seven pounds.

As he explained to The Sydney Morning Herald, “I mean, what else is there to do in a country like Ethiopia but eat?”

..  According to ProPublica, after a man watching Rachel Maddow emailed Kasowitz Wednesday telling him to “Resign Now,” the lawyer shot back with a bunch of nasty messages, such as “Watch your back, bitch” and “I already know where you live, I’m on you. … You will see me. I promise. Bro.”

.. Kasowitz, ProPublica reports, has a drinking problem that could hamper him getting a security clearance. He has grown increasingly frustrated by Trump’s lack of discipline as the president sulks and rages in his tent

.. He bragged about his cunning when he brought up the hacks with Putin. After citing it once, Trump said, “I then said to him again, in a totally different way.”

Wow. That must have really outfoxed the lethal former K.G.B. agent. You know nothing, Donald Trump.