February 16, 2018

Udall, Heinrich Say White House Reliance On Interim Security Clearances Troubling, Question Whether Classified Information Was Mishandled

WASHINGTON – Following testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that revealed significant discrepancies in the White House’s account of how long former Staff Secretary Rob Porter was permitted access to classified information without a full security clearance, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined a group of senators in writing to FBI Director Christopher Wray to raise concerns regarding the Trump administration’s “troubling reliance on the use of interim security clearances and whether there has been any mishandling of classified information by individuals entrusted with our national security secrets.”

“You also testified yesterday that the FBI completed a background investigation into White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter in late July, yet he remained in his position until last week,” the senators wrote. “Who else is currently working at the White House following the completion of a background investigation without being able to obtain a permanent security clearance?”

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

During Senator Heinrich’s questioning in the Senate Intelligence Committee open hearing this week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed that people with temporary security clearance should get only limited access to sensitive, classified information and referred to the process as "broken."

Last week, Udall, Blumenthal, Hirono, Baldwin, and Booker joined seven additional Senators writing to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn to raise serious concerns regarding Porter’s ongoing access to classified information even after Kelly was notified that Porter was unable to obtain a security clearance.

The full text of today’s letter is available here and copied below.

Director Wray:

We write out of concern regarding the White House’s troubling reliance on the use of interim security clearances and whether there has been any mishandling of classified information by individuals entrusted with our national security secrets. Given that the F.B.I. conducts a background investigation into every individual working at the White House as part of the security clearance process, we respectfully request that you provide the names of all individuals who currently hold interim security clearances, and the status of their F.B.I. background investigations.

Credible recent reports indicate that 30-40 White House staff currently have full access to highly sensitive classified information with only interim security clearances. This practice seems to conflict with testimony from the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who confirmed to Congress yesterday that temporary or interim security clearances should provide staff with only limited access to sensitive and classified information. We are deeply concerned that high level officials operating under an interim security clearance, like Jared Kushner, read the President’s daily intelligence briefing. His role as Senior Advisor to the President with a focus on brokering peace in the Middle East also give him access to highly sensitive and classified information. What is the status of Mr. Kushner’s permanent security clearance? Has the F.B.I. provided information to the White House about whether Mr. Kushner will be able to obtain a permanent security clearance, and whether he is ineligible for any category of security clearance?

You also testified yesterday that the F.B.I. completed a background investigation into White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter in late July, yet he remained in his position until last week. Who else is currently working at the White House following the completion of a background investigation without being able to obtain a permanent security clearance? Please provide a list of these individuals, under seal if necessary.

We request answers to these questions as soon as possible.