President Donald Trump said Friday he will not decide himself whether to allow Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, to keep his temporary security clearance, telling reporters at the White House he'll leave the matter to his chief of staff John Kelly.
It was Kelly who mandated last week that officials who'd applied for security clearances before July, but haven't yet received permanent access, would be stripped of their interim clearances. That includes Kushner, whose portfolio includes sensitive foreign policy matters like the Middle East and China.
Officials at the White House have been working to devise a plan this week that would allow Kushner to continue in his role handling sensitive foreign policy matters without forcing Trump himself to personally intervene and grant him access to classified information, people familiar with the situation say.
As President, Trump himself could grant any clearance to Kushner. But the President's advisers have determined that taking that step would be drastic and cause deep rifts within the intelligence community and among Trump's top aides.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, has also made it known that Trump's personal intervention would pose a problem and possibly undercut his authority in the West Wing.
Instead, Trump on Friday declared he would leave the matter to his top aide.
"That will be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot and General Kelly will make that call," Trump said at a news conference. "I won't make that call. I will let the general, who is right here, make that call. Jared is doing some very important things for our country. He gets paid zero."
Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance in part because of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN earlier this week. Kushner is unlikely to obtain the full clearance as long as the special counsel's probe is ongoing, one of the sources said.
Trump slammed the background check system on Friday, calling it a "broken system."
"It shouldn't take this long," Trump said.
Multiple White House officials have said the complications with Kushner's security clearance have only exacerbated his frustration with Kelly, who has privately disregarded Kushner and Ivanka Trump as unserious and meddling.
Trump, however, has given Kelly his full support in efforts to reform the White House's system of security clearances, and has told his chief of staff that changes need to be made to bring the system into order, according to a person who has spoken to him about the matter. Kelly has interpreted that as a wide-ranging mandate that would include Kushner, a person familiar with the matter said. The person said Trump and Kelly would likely discuss the matter this week, if they haven't already, before Kelly's self-imposed Friday deadline.
Trump opened his answer Friday by lauding Kushner.
"Well, Jared has done an outstanding job, I think he has been treated very unfairly," Trump said. "He works for nothing."