Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, laughed off accusations Monday night that the Trump administration had overruled national security concerns of career officials to grant up to 25 high-level security clearances to people — including Kushner himself — who were initially denied that access.
The New York Times reported in February that Trump ordered his chief of staff, John Kelly, to grant a clearance to Kushner last year.
“I can’t comment on the White House’s process, but over the last two years that I’ve been here, I’ve been accused of all different types of things, and all those things have turned out to be false,” Kushner told Fox News host Laura Ingraham in a rare interview Monday night. “We’ve had a lot of crazy accusations — like that we colluded with Russia,” he added.
“I complied with all of the different investigations, whether it be the Senate, the House, the special counsel. I’ve sat for nearly 20 hours of interviews with them,” Kushner continued. “When I came to Washington, I had a very successful business career. I had extensive holdings — I disclosed all my holdings to the Office of Government Ethics,” he explained.
In a series of “explosive allegations,” White House Personnel Security Office employee Tricia Newbold accused Carl Kline, the former White House personnel security chief, of demanding that she change an unfavorable recommendation for a senior National Security Council official, according to Politico. “I said I absolutely would not,” Newbold said.
She kept a list of White House officials whose clearance applications initially were denied but eventually overruled, and said the list includes as many as 25 people, some of whom had daily access to the president.
Newbold, who sat for an interview with the House Oversight and Reform Committee on March 23 about the Trump administration’s security clearance process, is the highest-ranking White House official to speak out about the issue which has come under the intense scrutiny of lawmakers.
Oversight Committee Republicans released a statement accusing Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings of engaging in “a partisan attack on the White House.”
— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) April 1, 2019
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight committee, said Cummings cherry-picked information, claiming that Newbold’s list of 25 people includes “non-political officials such as a GSA custodian,” according to Politico.
“It is extremely unfortunate and disappointing that Chairman Cummings is now using this sensitive topic as a pretense for a partisan attack on the White House,” Jordan said.
Ingraham asked Kushner about Newbold’s “grave concerns” about potential national security issues with the Trump officials. “Do you pose a grave national security concern to the country, Jared Kushner?” she asked.
“Look, I can say that in the White House I work with some phenomenal people. And I think that over the last two years, the president has done a phenomenal job of identifying what our national security priorities are. He’s had a great team in place helping to implement it and I hope I’ve played a good part in pushing those objectives forward,” Kusner replied. “I think because of the president’s leadership, the world is safer today.”
Ingraham asked Kushner if he has a “sense that the Democrats keep moving the goalposts” on the issue, pointing out that the security clearance controversy came out after the Mueller report fizzled.
“What I learned during the campaign is that there’s a big difference between what people in America care about and what people in Washington and the media care about,” Kushner said.
Ingraham and Kushner also discussed criminal justice reform and the president’s threat to close the border unless Mexico takes action to halt the flow of illegal immigrants heading toward the U.S. border.
Trump’s son-in-law explained that the threat was just the president’s way of pressuring people.
“This is something that needs a solution, and one of the things I love about the president is, he doesn’t let people hide from problems,” Kushner explained. “When there’s a problem, he makes people confront the problem and he’s very creative about ways that he’ll look to find a solution.”
He also discussed the media’s biased coverage of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, comparing it to their inaccurate reporting on the 2016 presidential election.
“Well, look, the media got the election wrong. They thought for sure Hillary Clinton was going to win,” Kushner said. “They didn’t see what we were seeing out in the country and the field. Their data was wrong, their analysis was wrong and then it happened. Not a single person got fired, not a single person apologized … I think people sometimes let their hatred for Trump overtake their rational ability to kind of look at things objectively.”
“On the other hand,” Kushner added, “you could look at it and say that because the media’s been so distracted with Russia, Russia, Russia and all of these crazy conspiracy theories, we’ve been able to operate underneath that level and just be really effective.”
Kushner was particularly displeased with CNN’s reporting, especially after political analyst Paul Begala’s referred to him and his wife Ivanka Trump as “cockroaches.”
“The number of times that CNN wrote things about me that I would then call and say, ‘That’s not true,’ [and] they would say, ‘Well, we have a source,'” Kushner noted. “It is what it is … I just hope that going forward, everyone will look at it and maybe have a little bit of cooler heads and focus that we’re all on the same team. We’re all here for America.”
Kushner added that he would be willing to testify again about the Russia investigation on Capitol Hill, calling the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia “a very serious accusation that goes to the very core of our democracy … that was one [investigation] that we thought it was important to go [along] with, so we were fully compliant.”
As for congressional Democrats who still insist that there is evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Kushner said, “I wish them luck, [but] talking about this nonsense further, especially after two years and being wrong so many times is just really not productive and quite frankly, it’s kind of an embarrassment for our democracy.”