Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida introduced a pair of amendments aimed at stripping White House senior adviser Jared Kushner of his security clearance into a 2018 appropriations bill that were voted down Thursday. The amendments came as Kushner found himself under renewed scrutiny after his participation in a June 2016 meeting that involved Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was revealed.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz tries to strip Jared Kushner of his security clearance
July 13, 2017
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida introduced a pair of amendments aimed at stripping White House senior adviser Jared Kushner of his security clearance into a 2018 appropriations bill that were voted down Thursday.
The amendments came as Kushner found himself under renewed scrutiny after his participation in a June 2016 meeting that involved Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was revealed.
Wasserman Schultz's amendments, which did not make it through the Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee, received 22 yes votes and 30 no tallies. The text of the amendments was provided to Business Insider prior to their introduction.
"None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who is under a criminal investigation by a federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government," read the first amendment from Wasserman Schultz, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee.
"None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who deliberately fails, as determined by the issuing department or agency, to disclose in the Standard Form 86 [the security clearance form] of such individual a meeting with a foreign national if such disclosure is required for such form," read the second.
While discussing the second amendment, Wasserman Schultz pointed to Kushner having had to make multiple revisions to his security clearance form.
"Mr. Kushner didn't only leave out a couple of meetings, he's had to amend his form three times, with over 100 meetings with foreign nationals," Wasserman Schultz said, adding that some of those individuals "were with the state of Russia, an enemy state. Specifically designed to aid his father-in-law's campaign and assist him in being elected president of the United States."
Republican Rep. John Culberson of Texas called the amendments "utterly unnecessary" and a "political stunt" after they were introduced.
"We have to leave these decisions in the hands of security professionals, who make these decisions on a case-by-case basis," he said. "There are guidelines in place that make it clear that an individual is ineligible for a security clearance if they meet any one of 13 guidelines. These are used by all federal agencies already, including the FBI, which does security clearances for everyone in the government, including the White House."
A handful of Democrats spoke up to push for the Wasserman Schultz amendments.
Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California said the amendments were especially pertinent after the Trump Tower meeting was revealed.
"At a minimum, White House staff who are under investigation should not have access to classified information," she said.
Wasserman Schultz introduced the amendments to the 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Financial Services Appropriations Bills.
Kushner is the only current White House staffer who was present for the meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Emails released Tuesday showed Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton that he claimed was never actually presented.
Trump Jr. posted emails that were forwarded to Kushner and Trump's campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, setting up that meeting. Democrats and Republicans have subsequently questioned why Kushner still has a security clearance.
The deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not tell reporters at Wednesday's off-camera briefing whether Kushner still held that clearance, saying Democrats "are trying to play political games" by calling for it to be revoked.
It's not the first time Kushner's security clearance has come under question.
Kushner had to revise his security clearance form after he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US and a Russian banker, which led to The New York Times' discovery of the Trump Tower meeting involving Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, and the Russian lawyer. Additionally, the House and Senate intelligence committees and Department of Justice investigators are looking into whether the Kushner-led Trump campaign digital operation assisted Russia's attacks on Clinton during the 2016 election cycle.
Though Veselnitskaya told NBC News that Kushner "left the meeting after seven to 10 minutes of the 20- to 30-minute meeting," these incidents — with the Trump Jr. meeting now at center stage — have led to calls for Kushner to be stripped of the clearance.
Trump Jr.'s "preemptive release of the emails that led to the meeting with the Russian operative puts Jared Kushner in legal peril," Rick Tyler, the communications director for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign who is now an MSNBC contributor, told Business Insider in an email. "He has consistently failed to make mandatory discloses of meetings with foreign nationals including this one which is a felony."
"Jared should, at a minimum, have his clearances rescinded making his utility as an advisor, which itself is suspect, impractical," he continued.
The email disclosure revealed that Kushner was copied on Trump Jr.'s email chain with Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who represented a Russian pop star with ties to President Donald Trump and was tasked with arranging the June meeting. The email chain was titled "Russia — Clinton — private and confidential" and said a Russian official had "offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to" Trump.
Goldstone described the information as being "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," something that prompted Trump Jr. to respond, "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."
The fact that Kushner had the email chain available to him seemed to contradict an earlier statement from Trump Jr., who said over the weekend that Kushner and Manafort were told "nothing of the substance" of the meeting when he asked them to attend.
"Mr. Kushner's decision to take this meeting raises significant questions about his judgment and his respect for the very principles that our democracy was founded on — that our elections should be sacred and free of interference from a foreign adversary," Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democratic member of the House oversight committee, told Business Insider in an email.
He added: "His reported failure to disclose this meeting — and numerous others with Russians — when he submitted his security clearance application compounds the problem and is deeply concerning."