Does Jared Kushner deserve a security clearance?
(CNN)Jared Kushner seems to have a memory problem. He’s recently had to update the list of foreign contacts on his national security questionnaire for a third time.
Kushner is by all accounts one of President Donald Trump’s closest and most trusted advisers; he is one of the most visible members of the Trump inner circle, and has been dispatched to meet with foreign leaders and represent American interests abroad.
People forget things and they make mistakes. But it took you three times to get it right on disclosure forms that determine whether you’ll have access to some of the country’s most sensitive information? And when you presumably have a team of well-compensated lawyers working with you, presumably advising you that submitting false information on the form can be a federal crime?
At best, Kushner is tremendously careless; at worst, he may be obfuscating or outright lying. But let’s consider all of the possibilities, and for a moment here give him the benefit of the doubt:
Putting together the disclosures for a national security clearance isn’t a simple task, especially for a real estate scion who, unlike most people actually qualified for high-level government jobs, may not have been keeping careful track of his every meeting and interaction.
And surely the lawyers didn’t just park Kushner in a room and tell him to recall every foreign national he had ever met from memory. No, one imagines that, from the start, a competent legal team would have Kushner go through his old calendar and email archives to determine to whom he spoke, when, and about what.
One imagines that for a person with such a high profile, charged with a government job so important, Kushner and his team would have been, in this way, extra careful.
Still, few people with busy jobs who meet with dozens of people a month can remember every single person they met. (This does not explain Kushner’s other sloppy mistakes on his disclosure form: He listed the wrong dates on his graduate degrees, and wrote down the wrong address for his father-in-law.)
Which brings us to the meeting with the Russian lawyer, which Kushner finally appended to his disclosures about a month ago, on June 21. It seems improbable that he would have forgotten that one.
Campaigns are hectic, sure, but when “allegations that Russia helped the Trump campaign to win the election” has been the biggest story of the past year, you would think that, at some point Kushner would have asked himself if he could possibly be swept up in any of it.
And you would think that, in probing the recesses of his mind for any contacts or meetings that seemed at all untoward, being summoned to meet with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton would have popped up. One assumes, after all, that such a thing didn’t happen every day (and if it did, then Kushner and the rest of the Trump team have more to worry about).
But let’s say Kushner did, somehow, totally forget that he accompanied his brother-in-law to a meeting that, by his brother-in-law’s own account, showed the Trump campaign’s willingness to collude with Russia to damage Clinton. It’s a weird thing to forget, as Kushner’s lawyers say he did, but Kushner is a busy working dad — maybe he had other things on his mind.
But wouldn’t you think someone on his team would have suggested he search his inbox for the word “Russia” when he finally compiled an important list of his foreign contacts after leaving them off (accidentally, says his lawyer) the first time he submitted his national security questionnaire, back in January. Or even the second time he updated his application, in May.
If he had, he would have found an email from his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with the subject line, “FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.” Perhaps that would have jogged his memory.
Indeed it’s surprising to learn from a news report, that, according to a person close to Kushner, his lawyers only came across it — on their own — while going through his emails after he’d already applied for the security clearance.
Even giving Kushner the benefit of the doubt, the conclusion must be that if he’s not a liar, then he’s a fool, one who perhaps lacks the basic competence to perform his duties.
And is unfit to have a high-level security clearance to begin with.