Jared Kushner has become the top target of Democratic outrage over the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, with congressional Democrats ramping up their calls for his security clearance to be revoked.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser was already in the congressional cross hairs before this week’s revelation that he attended a controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended last year’s meeting, which was pitched as a chance for the Russian lawyer to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.
But neither Trump Jr. nor Manafort are currently serving in the White House with a high-level security clearance — and therefore, unlike Kushner, are not privy to sensitive national security secrets.
That has made Kushner a top target of Democratic ire.
“His security clearance must be revoked immediately,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared on Thursday.
Also Thursday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) put forward two appropriations amendments designed to strip Kushner of his clearance, but both were blocked by Republicans in party-line votes. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter this week to Trump urging Kushner’s clearance be suspended “pending a full investigation.”
And Rep. Bill Flores, a Republican, urged the president to stop mixing family and politics.
"I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say that I think it would be in the president’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House," Flores told a local television station in his home state of Texas.
But even before this week’s revelations, there were major concerns about Kushner having a clearance.
Kushner omitted meetings with foreign officials, including a top Russian diplomat and businessman, on his initial security clearance application forms. He has since updated his forms to include more than 100 contacts with foreign officials, The New York Times reported.
One expert in the security clearance application process said she’s never seen an employee with such egregious omissions continue to retain a clearance.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Joanna Friedman, an attorney with the Federal Practice Group, who has represented employees seeking security clearances for a decade. “We’ll have clients who, you know, have 2,000 dollars’ worth of debt that they did not disclose — they pay it off during the investigation and they still don’t get approved for security clearance.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said his panel had received documents from Kushner and would be receiving more.
The Virginia senator, whose committee is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election, said he wasn’t ready yet to call for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked. But, Warner added, "We now have three examples of meetings that he omitted or forgot."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), also a member of the intelligence panel, said he was “exceptionally troubled” about the Kushner revelations.
“I do not think in light of what has been discussed that he should be allowed to handle national security matters and materials,” Wyden said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, too, has come under scrutiny for failing to note foreign meetings on his security clearance application. House Judiciary Committee Democrats on Thursday called for a review of Sessions’ fitness to hold a clearance. But they saved their harshest calls for Kushner.
A handful of House Democrats, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), began calling for Kushner’s clearance to be revoked in April, when it was first reported that Kushner omitted foreign connections on his security clearance application. A month later, the number grew to 50 House Democrats after reports indicated Kushner had attempted to set up a back channel to the Kremlin in one of his undisclosed meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.