John Bolton caught using a ‘shadow’ council to funnel new personnel into the White House

Donald Trump’s third national security adviser John Bolton has a group of associates outside the White House some call the “shadow” National Security Council for their influential role in shaping the adviser’s operations within the administration.

The New York Times reported Monday that Bolton’s “shadow NSC” includes Charles M. Kupperman, a former official in the Ronald Reagan administration that currently holds a temporary leadership position on the council. Three other Bolton associates — Frederick H. Fleitz, Sarah Tinsley and David Wurmser — are also in consideration for jobs on the NSC as well.

After being hired in March to replace H.R. McMaster, Bolton, the Times noted, “engaged in his own speeded-up transition process” with the help of his outside advisers. They work out of downtown D.C. offices associated with the adviser’s various conservative political organizations, and help provide advice on the NSC’s operations as well as assisting in vetting “prospective new hires for views that would be compatible with his own.”

Bolton’s use of temporary and informal advisers “has raised concerns among government watchdog organizations and N.S.C. veterans and scholars, who say it raises questions of conflicts of interest, and creates an echo chamber of identical views with little room for dissent at the agency charged with coordinating policy throughout the government’s military, foreign policy and intelligence communities and synthesizing the best advice for the president.”

One such associate is Matthew C. Freedman, a conservative operative Bolton met in the 1980’s considered to be the most influential of all the “shadow NSC” members.

“After his early foray in government,” the Timesreported, “Mr. Freedman went on to become a foreign lobbyist working with Paul Manafort in the 1980s and 1990s for sometimes unsavory but well-paying foreign leaders, including Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine strongman.”

Freedman also worked on the Trump transition team, but was kicked off after he used an email address from one of his lobbying jobs to conduct government business. He interviewed potential NSC hires from one of Bolton’s DC offices, and has reportedly been a driving factor behind massive firings at the NSC since Bolton took over as national security adviser — an allegation Freedman denies.

[Raw Story]

Trump goes rogue on phone security

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials — a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance.

The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use, according to the administration officials.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

President Barack Obama handed over his White House phones every 30 days to be examined by telecommunications staffers for hacking and other suspicious activity, according to an Obama administration official.

The White House declined to comment for this story, but a senior West Wing official said the call-capable phones “are seamlessly swapped out on a regular basis through routine support operations. Because of the security controls of the Twitter phone and the Twitter account, it does not necessitate regular change-out.”

Trump’s call-capable cellphone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cellphones used by Obama. Keeping those components creates a risk that hackers could use them to access the phone and monitor the president’s movements. The GPS location tracker, however — which can be used to track the president’s whereabouts — is disabled on Trump’s devices.

The West Wing official refuted the idea that the presence of a camera and microphone on the president’s phone posed any risk, telling POLITICO, “Due to inherent capabilities and advancement in technologies, these devices are more secure than any Obama-era devices.”

Trump’s reluctance to submit to White House security protocols that would limit his ability to tweet or contact friends freely is a case of the president’s personal peculiarities colliding with the demands of his office — a tension created in part because of society’s growing attachment to mobile technology over the past decade.

Obama, who relied on email and text messages, was the first president to speak publicly about his desire to hang on to his cellphone in office and to be photographed repeatedly with it in hand. Trump, who doesn’t use email in office, entered the White House eight years later with a long-established Twitter habit and a lifelong attachment of doing business, dealing with the press and gabbing with associates over the phone.

Former national security officials are virtually unanimous in their agreement about the dangers posed by cellphones, which are vulnerable to hacking by domestic and foreign actors who would want to listen in on the president’s conversations or monitor his movements.

“Foreign adversaries seeking intelligence about the U.S. are relentless in their pursuit of vulnerabilities in our government’s communications networks, and there is no more sought-after intelligence target than the president of the United States,” said Nate Jones, former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration and the founder of Culper Partners, a consulting firm.

While the president has the authority to override or ignore the advice provided by aides and advisers for reasons of comfort or convenience, Jones said, “doing so could pose significant risks to the country.”

Trump campaigned in part on his denunciations of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state — a system that made classified information vulnerable to hacking by hostile actors.

“Her server was easily hacked by foreign governments, perhaps even by her financial backers in communist China — sure they have it — putting all of America and our citizens in danger, great danger,” Trump said in a June 2016 speech in which he called Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to run for president.” He repeatedly vowed on the trail to “lock her up.”

Dozens of Trump’s friends and advisers testify to his frequent cellphone use. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Trump confidant, told POLITICO in April that he hears from the president either late at night or early in the morning, sometimes from a blocked number and sometimes from “a 10-digit number that starts with a 202 area code.”

Three White House aides confirmed that Trump’s cellphone number changes from time to time. Several aides close to the president also carry secure devices from which he can place calls — a standard practice in any presidential administration.

Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly has cracked down on personal cellphone use by White House staff, citing security risks.

Personal cellphones were banned from the West Wing in January in order to “protect White House information technology infrastructure from compromise and sensitive or classified information from unauthorized access or dissemination,” according to a memo sent to staff.

The memo was sent after Kelly’s own phone was apparently compromised during the Trump transition. At the time, according to a senior administration official, he was told to replace the phone — his own personal device — though he didn’t do so until October, after POLITICO reported the potential hacking.

Though it was unclear whether Kelly’s phone was compromised by a foreign government, cybersecurity experts pointed to sophisticated adversaries like Russia and China as the biggest threats, and expressed shock over the president’s refusal to take measures to protect himself from them, particularly when engaged in delicate negotiations.

“It’s baffling that Trump isn’t taking baseline cybersecurity measures at a time when he is trying to negotiate his way out of a trade war with China, a country that is known for using cyber tactics to gain the upper hand in business negotiations,” said Samm Sacks, a China and technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Former government officials from Republican and Democratic administrations expressed astonishment that any White House would issue the president a cellphone that posed a security threat.

“This would be the case of a president overruling literally the most rudimentary advice given by the communications agencies,” said Andrew McLaughlin, who served as deputy chief technology officer under Obama and helped develop the former president’s specialized phone.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned of the threats posed by unsecured devices and is considering banning personal cellphones as well as exercise trackers from the Pentagon. “It’s about electronics, GPS-enabled electronics. You have to also consider the fact that we have been attacked, bases have been attacked. Information is power and our adversaries have used information to plan attacks against us,” Mattis spokeswoman Dana White told reporters in early February.

Trump is not the first president to struggle with the relative isolation of the Oval Office and cling to his cellphone as a way to stay connected with friends and family outside of Washington. Three days before his inauguration in 2001, George W. Bush sent a wistful message to friends announcing that he would no longer use email. “Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace. This saddens me,” he wrote them.

Eight years later, Obama begged advisers to find a way for him to keep his beloved BlackBerry after his election and said publicly he used the phone as a way to reach beyond the Washington bubble.

A notorious text and email junkie who was frequently spotted on the campaign trail with headphones plugged in his ears listening to music streaming from his phone, Obama tasked his transition team with developing a phone that complied with the White House’s stringent electronic security guidelines. “I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,” he told CNBC in January 2009, days before his inauguration.

The Obama transition team produced a military-grade phone without a microphone, camera, or location tracker that could not make or receive calls.

“I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work … you can’t play your music on it,’” Obama told Jimmy Fallon in 2016. “Basically, it’s like, does your 3-year-old have one of those play phones?”

[Politico]

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “hasn’t seen” intel showing Russia pushed for Trump win

Following a classified election security briefing for all House members, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that she “hasn’t seen” a conclusion by the intelligence community that Russia’s intent in meddling in the 2016 election was to help Donald Trump win the presidency and to hurt Hillary Clinton. Nielsen was pressed about the January Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

“I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion, that the specific intent was to help President Trump win. I’m not aware of that. But I do generally have no reason to doubt any intelligence assessment,” Nielsen told reporters following the briefing. Nielsen joined FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.

Nielsen added, “What we have seen the Russians do is attempt to manipulate public confidence on both sides. So we’ve seen them encourage people go to a protest on one side; we’ve seen them simultaneously encourage people to go to that same protest on the other side. So I think what they’re trying to do, in my opinion, and I defer to the intel community, is just disrupt our belief and our own understanding of what’s happening. It’s an integrity issue of who is saying what and why and how that may or may not affect an American’s behavior in what they’re voting for.”

Her comments contrast with the intelligence community’s report that Putin and the Russian government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

“We have high confidence in these judgments. We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment,” the report’s conclusion found.

[CBS News]

Trump eliminates job of national cybersecurity coordinator

President Donald Trump eliminated the job of the nation’s cybersecurity czar on Tuesday, and Democratic lawmakers immediately introduced legislation to restore it.

Trump signed an executive order rearranging the federal information technology infrastructure that includes no mention of the White House cybersecurity coordinator or of a replacement for Rob Joyce, who said last month that he is leaving the position to return to the National Security Agency, where he previously directed cyberdefense programs.

“Today’s actions continue an effort to empower National Security Council senior directors,” the National Security Council said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Streamlining management will improve efficiency, reduce bureaucracy and increase accountability.”

Politico first reported the elimination of the job on Tuesday. The White House and the National Security Council didn’t reply to requests for comment about the decision, which came on the same day a major computer security report again found government systems to be the least secure among all industries.

John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser, has widely been reported to have sought to eliminate the job as part of a top-to-bottom reorganization of the National Security Council. Joyce and his predecessors reported to the president; the senior NSC directors report to Bolton.

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill reacted harshly to the decision. In a statement, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized Bolton for “already wreaking havoc on the National Security Council.”

[NBC News]

Trump on deported immigrants: “They’re not people. They’re animals.”

President Donald Trump referred to some people deported from the United States as “animals” during a roundtable discussion with California sheriffs on Wednesday. It’s the latest in a series of statements stretching Trump’s entire national political career that carelessly conflate immigration, criminality, and violence.

From the official White House transcript:

SHERIFF (Margaret) MIMS (Fresno County, CA): Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.

SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.

THE PRESIDENT: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

It’s not clear who the president was referring to — whether he was simply picking up on Sheriff Mims’s reference to MS-13 gang members or referring to deportees more broadly. But the president didn’t exactly bend over backward to specify that not all immigrants deported by this administration are “animals.”

Trump has used the term “animals” to refer to members of MS-13 before. In a July 2017 speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, he said: “Few communities have suffered worse at the hand of these MS-13 thugs than the people of Long Island. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They are animals.” In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “These are animals. They cut people. They cut them. They cut them up in little pieces, and they want them to suffer. And we take them into our country.”

No matter how Trump is portraying his policy, his administration is not focusing on deporting people who have committed particularly heinous crimes; gang members; or people with criminal records. From Trump’s inauguration to the end of 2017, ICE arrested 45,436 immigrants without criminal records.

To be sure, ICE arrests of immigrants with criminal records ticked up slightly from the last year of the Obama administration (in which immigration enforcement was subdued compared to previous years) to the Trump administration. But arrests of immigrants without criminal records have also spiked. During President Obama’s last year, about 16 percent of ICE arrests were of noncriminal immigrants; each month since July 2017, between 32 and 40 percent of arrestees have been noncriminals.

The Trump administration is still deporting fewer noncriminal immigrants than the Obama administration did circa 2011, and the proportion of deportees who are noncriminals is usually smaller than the proportion of arrestees who are. But the Trump administration is aiming not just to ramp back up to the deportation peak of Obama’s first term but surpass it, and that’s going to require arresting and deporting a lot of immigrants without criminal records.

If Donald Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.

This is who Donald Trump has been for his entire political career. The worst-case scenarios about his dehumanizing rhetoric — that they would foment large-scale mob violence or vigilantism against Latinos in the United States — have not been realized. But neither have any hopes that Trump, as president, might ever weigh his words with any care at all, especially when encouraging Americans to see human beings as less than human.

[Vox]

Update

The White House said that President Trump was “clearly” referring to members of the MS-13 gang when he called some immigrants “animals” and argued the controversial label is more than appropriate.

Media

Trump floats September shutdown for ‘border security’

President Donald Trump told supporters at a speech on Saturday that if Congress did not meet his funding demands for border security, he may support a government shutdown this fall.

Trump was speaking in Washington Township, Michigan, at the same time that the White House correspondents’ dinner was taking place back in Washington, DC, with some lawmakers and current and former members of his administration in attendance. During his remarks, he alluded to the appropriations deadline at the end of September.

“We have to have borders, and we have to have them fast,” he said. “And we need security. We need the wall. We’re going to have it all. And again, that wall has started. We got 1.6 billion. We come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security, we’ll have no choice. We’ll close down the country because we need border security.”

Despite his campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border, Trump has demanded that Congress fund the project. Last month, he signed a bill that funds the government through September after expressing frustration with a spending package that included $1.6 billion for border security, but not the wall.

In his speech Saturday night, Trump railed against the Democratic Party on a range of issues, including immigration.

“A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime,” Trump said.

He continued, “The open border policies of the Democratic Party are not just wrong, they’re dangerous, and they’re in fact deadly. They’re deadly.”

[CNN]

Trump ramps up personal cell phone use

President Donald Trump is increasingly relying on his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, multiple sources inside and outside the White House told CNN, as Trump returns to the free-wheeling mode of operation that characterized the earliest days of his administration.

“He uses it a lot more often more recently,” a senior White House official said of the President’s cell phone.

Sources cited Trump’s stepped-up cell phone use as an example of chief of staff John Kelly’s waning influence over who gets access to the President. During the early days of Kelly’s tenure, multiple sources said, Trump made many of his calls from the White House switchboard — a tactic that allowed the chief of staff to receive a printed list of who Trump had phoned. Kelly has less insight into who Trump calls on his personal cell phone.

While Trump never entirely gave up his personal cell phone once Kelly came aboard, one source close to the White House speculated that the President is ramping up the use of his personal device recently in part because “he doesn’t want Kelly to know who he’s talking to.”

The senior White House official said Trump “is talking to all sorts of people on it,” noting Trump’s barrage of private calls is a “recent development.”

‘The walls are breaking’

Three sources familiar with the situation said Trump has also increased his direct outreach to GOP lawmakers over the past several weeks, sometimes employing his cell phone.

“Basically, at this point, he’s just sort of engaging on his own,” observed a source familiar with Trump’s calls to congressional allies.

“Kelly used to be more clearly the gatekeeper than he is now from a Hill standpoint,” that source added, noting members would typically call Kelly’s office if they wanted to set up a talk with Trump rather than dial the President directly.

“I don’t know that he even is running it by the chief of staff anymore,” the staff said.

Some White House allies said they see Trump’s more frequent solicitation of advice outside the West Wing as a sign that Kelly’s status as a gatekeeper for the President has diminished.

“Definitely, the walls are breaking,” one source close to the White House said of the procedures Kelly initially established to regulate access to Trump. Another source close to the White House added that “a lot of meetings, a lot of things have happened lately without Kelly being in the room.”

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been one notable beneficiary of Kelly’s loosened grip. One source said Lewandowski recently bragged to friends that he now enjoys “unfettered” access to the President — including a recent dinner in the residence with Trump, according to two sources. Upon his arrival last year, Kelly attempted to limit Lewandowski’s access to Trump from the nearly unchecked privileges he enjoyed at the start of the administration, although Kelly’s efforts were never entirely successful. Lewandowski did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has also made clear that Larry Kudlow, his new economic adviser, and John Bolton, his new national security adviser, are “direct reports” to him and not to Kelly, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Their predecessors, however, reported directly to the chief of staff or at least looped Kelly in after a meeting with the President — a potential sign of Trump’s shift toward controlling more of what goes on in his own White House.

A senior White House official said Kelly’s absence from phone calls and meetings in recent weeks is more a reflection of the balance Trump and his chief of staff have struck since Kelly took the job.

“They’ve grown into some level of comfort,” the official said. “There used to be a level of babysitting, and it wasn’t organized.” The source added Kelly “spent months” fixing the operational process and noted now, Kelly doesn’t need to insert himself into as many issues.

Security questions

Former President Barack Obama was permitted to use a Blackberry during his presidency. However, the White House said at the time that the device given to Obama was outfitted with enhanced security to protect potentially classified talks.

Mary McCord, who used to head the Justice Department’s national security division, says smartphones are notorious for their security vulnerabilities.

“Because the smartphones of high-level government officials — including the President — are obvious targets for foreign intelligence services, the government goes to significant effort to ensure that government-issued smartphones are constantly updated to address security vulnerabilities,” she said. “Use of personal smartphones, which may not have all of the security features of government-issued smartphones or be regularly updated to address newly discovered vulnerabilities, present an obvious potential security risk.”

Another security expert said the President’s increased cell phone use makes his calls more vulnerable to eavesdropping from foreign governments.

“All communications devices of all senior government officials are targeted by foreign governments. This is not new,” said Bryan Cunningham, executive director of the Cybersecurity Policy and Research Institute at the University of California-Irvine.

“What is new in the cell phone age is the ease of intercepting them and that at least our last two presidents … have chafed at not being able to use their personal cell phones,” Cunningham added. “Of course, calls are only secure if both parties use a secure device.”

Another implication of Trump’s private cell phone use, Cunningham noted, is the possibility that Trump’s conversations may not be “captured for the purposes of government accountability and history.”

[CNN]

Trump threatens to pull funding for California National Guard deployment

President Donald Trump lashed out at California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday, insisting that his administration won’t pay for the state’s National Guard deployment unless the troops help enforce US immigration laws at the border.

“Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy ‘up to 400 National Guard Troops’ to do nothing,” Trump tweeted. “The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!”

Later Thursday, Trump tweeted more about immigration policy.

“Sanctuary Cities released at least 142 Gang Members across the United States, making it easy for them to commit all forms of violent crimes where none would have existed. We are doing a great job of law enforcement, but things such as this make safety in America difficult!”

Trump’s tweets comes less than 24 hours after Brown, a Democrat, agreed to send more National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border. Brown said that the mission would be limited.

“Let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission,” Brown said. “This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”

Trump’s comments seemingly contradict an earlier tweet from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

“Just spoke w @JerryBrownGov about deploying the @USNationalGuard in California,” Nielsen wrote on Wednesday. “Final details are being worked out but we are looking forward to the support. Thank you Gov Brown!”

Asked for comment on Trump’s tweet, Brown’s office pointed to Nielsen’s comments.

[CNN]

Reality

Violent crime across the country is at an all time low.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince reportedly bragged about having Jared Kushner ‘in his pocket’ after being told classified information meant for Trump

Jared Kushner reportedly discussed classified information obtained from the President’s Daily Brief with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who bragged that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” according to a report by The Intercept.

Presidential son-in-law-turned-advisor Jared Kushner reportedly had a penchant for reading President Donald Trump’s daily brief, a highly sensitive intelligence update that is only meant to be seen by the president and his top advisers, before being stripped of his top security clearance and access to the daily brief in February.

Before losing his security access, Kushner was particularly interested about information on the Middle East, the Intercept reported, citing several former White House and US government officials.

When Salman became the new heir to the throne in June last year, the daily brief reportedly began to focus on shifting political allegiances in Saudi Arabia, and named several Saudi royals who were opposed to the crown prince’s position.

Kushner then made a surprise trip to Riyadh in October, reportedly staying up until 4 a.m. with Salman to discuss strategy.

Several sources told the Intercept that following the meeting, Salman told close confidants that Kushner had spilled the names of the Saudi royals “disloyal” to the prince, although Kushner’s camp strongly denies the claim.

Salman reportedly told the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed about the meeting with Kushner, bragging that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” sources told the Intercept.

Just a week after the meeting Salman began his large-scale corruption crackdown, which saw 200 officials arrested. According to the report, Saudi officials mentioned in the daily briefs were among those detained.

The “two princes” have forged a close bond

Kushner has built a close relationship with the Salman, setting the stage for close communication between the the US and Saudi Arabia.

Kushner and Salman began their friendship at a lunch meeting at the White House last year, according to the Washington Post, citing sources familiar with their relationship. The two have been tasked with leading negotiations on Israel-Palestine peace, and have consulted frequently in private phone calls over several months, according to the Post.

A source close to Kushner told CNN that Kushner’s relationship with the Saudi prince is more personal and close than other professional relationships between the US and world leaders, and that Kushner seeks to use that bond to deepen ties between the countries.

Kushner is said to be playing an important role in Salman’s visit to the US this week.

Kushner attended official meetings between the president and the Saudi delegation, and is scheduled in for several dinners with Salman and other US and Saudi officials.

[Business Insider]

Officials from four countries discussed exploiting Jared Kushner

Officials from at least four countries have discussed ways they could use Jared Kushner’s intricate business arrangements, lack of experience and financial woes to manipulate President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The paper reported that it is unclear, based on current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, that the countries — – Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates — acted on the conversations.

The revelation is the latest in a series that call into question Kushner’s ability to work in the White House given his complex business ties.

CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that Kushner has been stripped of his access to the nation’s top secrets after chief of staff John Kelly mandated changes to the security clearance system. Kushner had been working on a temporary clearance, but, under the new system, aides who previously had “top secret” interim clearances saw their access downgrade to the less sensitive “secret” designation.

[CNN]

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