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Leaked McGahn memo reveals alarms about Kushner's top-secret security clearance

On Feb. 23, 2018, White House counsel Don McGahn sent a two-page memo to Chief of Staff John Kelly arguing that Jared Kushner's security clearance needed to be downgraded, the New York Times' Michael Schmidt reports in his forthcoming book, "Donald Trump v. The United States."

Driving the news: Schmidt reports directly from the confidential McGahn memo for the first time, describing how Kelly had serious concerns about granting Kushner a top-secret clearance in response to a briefing he had received related to the routine FBI investigation into Kushner’s background.


  • "The information you were briefed on one week ago and subsequently relayed to me, raises serious additional concerns about whether this individual ought to retain a top security clearance until such issues can be investigated and resolved," McGahn wrote in the memo to Kelly.
  • The details of the highly sensitive intelligence that raised alarms with Kelly are not revealed in the McGahn memo or in Schmidt's book.
  • McGahn wrote that he had been unable to receive the briefing or "access this highly compartmented information directly" about Kushner, Schmidt reports.
  • "Interim secret is the highest clearance that I can concur until further information is received," McGahn concluded, referring to the level of classified information Kushner would be able to access.

Between the lines: "By reducing Kushner's clearance from top secret to secret, McGahn and Kelly had restricted Kushner's access to the PDB, the closely held rundown provided by the intelligence community six days a week for the president and his top aides, and other highly sensitive intelligence that exposed sources and methods."

  • "McGahn did note that there was a possibility that when the background check was complete, it could be resolved in Kushner's favor, or there could be a recommendation that he not receive a clearance," Schmidt writes.
  • "McGahn conceded [in the memo] that Trump could if he chose simply disregard any security concerns and circumvent any standard procedures and grant Kushner the security clearance himself."

The bottom line: President Trump ultimately intervened to ensure Kushner got his top-secret security clearance.

  • Schmidt reviewed more than 1,000 pages of federal government documents that have not been previously reported on. These include sensitive materials from Mueller's office, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's office, the White House counsel's office, the president's legal team and the FBI.

The White House, Kelly and McGahn did not respond to requests for comment.

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Why it matters: The executive order appears to give the government the ability to cancel contracts if anti-racist or diversity trainings focused on sexual identity or gender are organized. The memo applies to executive departments and agencies, the U.S. military, federal contractors and federal grant recipients.

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White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told administration officials Monday to expect senior aides to be replaced at many government agencies, according to an internal email obtained by Axios.

Behind the scenes: Meadows asked the director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office John McEntee "to look at replacing the White House Liaisons (WHLs) at many of your agencies," according to the email. "John will be working with outgoing liaisons to explore other opportunities."

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Driving the news: Pascale Cecile Veronique Ferrier, 53, was arrested trying to enter New York from Canada on Sunday. She appeared briefly in a Buffalo, N.Y., courtroom where a judge entered a not guilty plea on her behalf to the charge of threatening the president, per CBC.

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Why it matters: The deal will avert a government shutdown when funding expires in eight days. Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said earlier that they hoped to hold a vote on the legislation on Tuesday evening.

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Remote work won't kill your office

We can officially declare the 9-to-5, five-days-a-week, in-office way of working dead. But offices themselves aren't dead. And neither are cities.

The big picture: Since the onset of pandemic-induced telework, companies have oscillated between can't-wait-to-go-back and work-from-home-forever. Now, it's becoming increasingly clear that the future of work will land somewhere in the middle — a remote/in-person hybrid.

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The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a public service announcement on Tuesday warning that mail-in ballots "could leave officials with incomplete results on election night," and that foreign actors are likely to spread disinformation about the delays.

The bottom line: The agencies called on the public to "critically evaluate the sources of the information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources," including state and local election officials.

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The big business of immigrant detention

Around 70% of all immigration detention centers are run by private companies, including the one at the heart of a new whistleblower complaint that alleges systemic medical neglect and malpractice.

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