Chief of Staff John Kelly has proposed a number of sweeping changes to how the President Donald Trump White House secures security clearances, in the wake of the Rob Porter scandal, in which the aide is alleged to have abused two of his ex-wives. He said, starting next week, temporary clearances for staffers whose background checks have been pending since June 1 or earlier would be discontinued.
Kelly has been under fire from some in the West Wing for his handling of the Porter case, and Trump confidants say the president has been sounding out his friends on possible replacements.
But press secretary Sarah Sanders says the White House's assertion that Porter's clearance was still under review with an interim clearance is accurate - because Porter hadn't received a final sign-off from the White House office of personnel security.
In a five-page memo to the White House counsel, national security adviser and deputy chief of staff for operations, Kelly called for all background check investigations into potential top White House officials to be delivered directly to the White House Counsel's office by the FBI and for the FBI to share "significant derogatory information" uncovered in the course of investigations into senior staff with the White House within 48 hours, according to a copy of the memo released by the White House.
The first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter is pushing back on comments by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway that seemed to suggest smart women can't be victims of domestic violence.
Kelly added, "We should-and in the future, must-do better". "But recent events have exposed some remaining shortcomings".
The Washington Post was recently told by two US officials that they don't think Kushner will receive clearance anytime soon. It also seeks to reduce the "tie lag" between discovery of derogatory information to disclosure to the White House.
Among the actions Kelly ordered is for the FBI, which conducts the background investigations for senior personnel, to hand deliver their reports to the counsel "personally upon completion".
Among them: Trump's son-in-law, Kushner, and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, both of whom reportedly have interim clearance for Top Secret and SCI clearance - exactly what Kelly's memo revokes next week.
Formalize the delivery and notification process between the White House and Federal Bureau of Investigation and update the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the White House and the Department of Justice regarding BIs as necessary.
The memo is addressed to White House counsel Don McGahn, who has also been criticized for his role in the Porter matter, as well as national security adviser H.R. McMaster. That has eroded in a week's time, as accounts about the handling of the Porter matter continue to shift and some aides came to believe Kelly lied to save face and save his job.
"In the past", Kelly wrote, "credible and substantiated reports of past domestic abuse - even physical abuse - were not considered automatic disqualifiers for suitability for employment or a security clearance".
For months, Kelly - with help from Porter - had established a semblance of stability in a White House often rattled by an unpredictable president. He said he reviewed who had clearances and what levels those clearances were, and that he had ended the granting of interim clearances "absent extraordinary circumstances and my explicit approval".