It will be up to the White House chief of staff to decide whether the U.S. president’s son-in-law is able to maintain his security clearance.
That is what President Donald Trump told reporters Friday, declaring that his daughter’s husband, Jared Kushner, had “been treated very unfairly.”
Trump, during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was asked whether Kushner would still be allowed access to classified information.
Chief of Staff John Kelly, in a memo last week, said White House personnel whose clearances had been pending since last June would no longer have access to top-secret documents.
Kushner falls into that category.
Trump expressed frustration with the federal government’s process for security clearances, calling it a “broken system and it shouldn’t take this long.”
“People without a problem in the world” are facing unreasonable delays to receive clearances, he said.
Trump could personally intervene and grant his son-in-law an exemption, but he replied Friday — the day interim clearances are being revoked — that he would not do that.
“I will let General Kelly make that decision and he’s going to do what’s right for the country and I have no doubt he’ll make the right decision,” Trump said.
In a lengthy response in the East Room during the nationally televised news conference, Trump praised Kushner, 37, saying he is “a high-quality person” who “doesn’t get a salary.”
Kushner, a second-generation real estate developer, is “working on peace in the Middle East and some other small and very easy deals.”
Trump said the U.S. effort to make a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians is “actually making great headway.”
Administration officials are said to be examining ways that Kushner can continue to be engaged in sensitive discussions and his diplomatic missions, which have also included China, without needing a top-level security clearance.
Visiting Seoul, Pyeongchang
Kushner is married to the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is currently engaged in her own diplomatic foray.
She received a red-carpet welcome in Seoul on Friday before dining with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential compound.
Ivanka Trump is leading the presidential delegation to Sunday’s closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
A top North Korean official is also scheduled to be at the event.
When asked whether the president’s daughter or any other member of the U.S. delegation would be meeting with Kim Yong Chol — vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee — a senior U.S. official succinctly responded, “No.”
Donald Trump on Thursday and Friday, when asked by VOA during brief encounters with reporters whether he wanted his daughter to meet the North Koreans, did not respond.
During Friday’s news conference he said, “We cannot get a better representative” than Ivanka Trump in South Korea.
The current administration has not nominated an ambassador to Seoul. The top diplomat at the embassy there is interim U.S. Charge d’Affaires Marc Knapper, a top-ranking career foreign service officer.
While in Seoul, Ivanka Trump said she was there “to reaffirm our bonds of friendship and partnership.” But she explained she wanted to “reaffirm our commitment to our maximum-pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized.”