Vox Sentences: Kushner’s security clearance secrets

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Jared Kushner’s clearance level raises questions; Canada’s prime minister faces an ill-timed accusation.


Trump reportedly gave his son-in-law top clearance

President Trump Hosts Roundtable With Hispanic Pastors In The Roosevelt Room Of White House Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, got a top-secret security clearance despite objections from key White House officials because the president himself ordered it, according to a report Thursday from the New York Times. [NYT / Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, and Annie Karni]
  • Trump has the “absolute right” to grant security clearances, according to a response from White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Friday — and she’s right. However, it’s a problem if Trump denied White House recommendations and gave the clearance anyway. Conway did not reveal whether she knew if Trump had ordered the top clearance for Kushner. [The Hill / Jordan Fabian]
  • The House Oversight Committee started an investigation into clearances in January. Following this week’s report, committee chair Elijah Cummings announced on Friday he wants to dig deeper into the matter. The White House has not initiated any interviews with the committee concerning the matter, nor made materials that refute reports of its clearance practices available. [NPR / Philip Ewing]
  • Kushner had an “interim top-secret” clearance that was demoted to a “secret” level in February 2018. His initial clearance was delayed when the FBI and CIA questioned Kushner’s business contacts in foreign countries, including Israel and Russia. He apparently also did not disclose meetings with foreign actors. Kushner met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week. [Vanity Fair / Bess Levin]
  • Both President Trump and Ivanka Trump have defended Kushner, who has been traveling from country to country in the effort to forge a Middle East peace plan. As he meets with top officials abroad, his potentially top-security clearance is important. The extent to which he can negotiate with America’s secrets is not known. [NYMag / Frank Rich]

Trudeau denies turning a trial into a political issue

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied accusations that he interfered in a legal case — just eight months before a national election. Trudeau’s former justice minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould testified on Thursday that the PM and his colleagues pushed her to not prosecute a top employer in the Quebec province. [WSJ / Paul Vieira and Kim Mackrael]
  • Trudeau’s political opponents also issued a letter on Thursday calling for an investigation and the PM’s resignation. This came one day after Wilson-Raybould testified that she had been pursuing corruption charges against the construction firm SNC-Lavalin when Trudeau pressured her to arrange a plea deal with the company, an employer in his hometown. [Politico / Alexander Panetta]
  • Wilson-Raybould provided notes from phone calls and meetings in which Trudeau and his aides tried to convince her that prosecuting the company would threaten Canadian jobs — and important votes. SNC-Lavalin reportedly faces charges for $36 million in bribes it allegedly offered Libyan officials. [BBC]
  • On top of it all, China is using the SNC-Lavalin case to talk about Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of the mobile giant Huawei. Trudeau claims Wanzhou was arrested in compliance with an extradition treaty with the US and his country won’t interfere in the case. On Friday, a Chinese Communist Party spokesperson was asked if it were hypocritical that Trudeau would interfere with the SNC-Lavalin case but deny getting involved in the Huawei case. The spokesperson replied that attention was on the precedent Canada would set. [Washington Post / Emily Rauhala]
  • Now Trudeau’s prime ministership faces a rocky future. Wilson-Raybould was demoted after the SNC-Lavalin situation, and she later quit the cabinet. Trudeau admitted that he asked the former AG to protect the company but said he didn’t pressure her. Opposition could call for an early election to be held before October 2019. [Politico / Alexander Panetta]

Miscellaneous

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has entered the 2020 Democratic presidential fray. Inslee is a known climate activist whose platform promises job growth by building up America’s use of renewable energy, and he praises the Green New Deal. [NYT / Kirk Johnson]
  • America First Action is a Super PAC lacking the leader it needs to raise the $1 billion Trump wants for his 2020 presidential campaign. ACA needs a superior who is close both to Trump and GOP leadership — a difficult position to fill. [Politico / Alex Isenstadt and Gabby Orr]
  • With $2.16 billion in revenue, Lyft is growing a lot — and spending a lot, according to the ride-hailing company’s IPO files, which were made public on Friday. Lyft is expected to begin trading at the end of the month. [WSJ / Maureen Farrell]
  • Research finds that violent crime is highly concentrated in small areas of cities and perpetrated by very small numbers of people — so why are whole neighborhoods still painted as “dangerous”? [CityLab / Stephen Lurie]
  • Time for some HERstory. March 1 marks the start of Women’s History Month, so take some time to break down the myths about women’s history, from the first use of contraception to the reported burning of bras. [NYT / Maya Salam]

Verbatim

“You come saying I have made my mistakes, but now I want to change my life. And you know, if we … as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they’ve made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well.” [House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings to Michael Cohen]


Watch this: The first aviation disaster caught on film

A routine press photo op in 1937 ended up recording the explosion of the greatest airship ever built. [YouTube / Coleman Lowndes]


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