If he was ever going to do it, today was the day. For all the back and forth about Jared Kushner’s security clearance troubles, the bottom line is that Donald Trump – in his role as (supposed) President of the United States – can unilaterally grant permanent security clearance to anyone he wants. The FBI, DOJ, XYZ don’t have final say; Trump does. He’s been punting on Kushner all along, because he’s timid and he always punts on these things. But today was the day to rescue Kushner or cut bait, and Trump chose the latter. Now what?
Instead of granting Kushner his clearance, Trump decided to leave Kushner hanging without a permanent clearance, and kick the decision back down to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who now has to decide whether to take Kushner’s most important job duties away. It’s not clear if Kelly, who is on thin ice himself, has the gumption to actually reassign Trump’s son-in-law to clerical duties. But what is clear is that Trump isn’t willing to stick his neck out even a little bit for Kushner’s sake.
Again, Trump is always timid about these things, except on the rare occasions in which he massively overreacts (firing FBI Director James Comey, releasing the Nunes memo), and then comes to regret it after it blows up in his face. But it feels like there’s more to this. Trump almost seems to be begging Kelly to take Kushner’s most sensitive job duties away, so Kushner will resign. If that happens, Kushner will probably move back to New York City and take Ivanka with him.
Donald Trump has been planting buzz in the media for several months about how he supposedly wants Jared and Ivanka out of his White House, yet he’s never pulled the trigger on it. Now he’s asking John Kelly to make it official. Why? We don’t know. Maybe Trump senses that Kushner is about to, or already has, cut a plea deal against him. Maybe Trump is just being as demented as ever. But there’s no longer any question that Trump wants Kushner gone. Today was the day to put up or shut up, and Trump decided to cut bait. We’ll see what Kelly and Kushner do about it next.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report