John Podesta: “Kushner Better Start Wearing His Kevlar On His Back”

Former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta raised some eyebrows in a Tuesday tweet directed at Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who reportedly just lost his access to top secret information amid accusations that “officials in at least four countries” had discussed ways to manipulate the 37-year-old real estate magnate. 

“Jared better start wearing his kevlar on his back,” Podesta tweeted after suggesting that Kushner’s troubles had just begun – referencing a widely mocked picture taken Iraq of Jared awkwardly wearing a bulletproof vest over a blazer. 

As we reported yesterday, all White House aides working on the highest-level interim security clearance were informed on Friday that they will have their clearance downgraded from “Top Secret/SCI-level” to “secret” – walling them off from the most sensitive information – including Kushner. 

Many had expected that Trump would grant Kushner a waiver, even though Trump himself said Friday that he would let Chief of Staff John Kelly decide if such an exception should be granted. In a statement issued last week, Kelly said that any changes to Kushner’s security clearance wouldn’t impact his ability to do his job:

“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in the statement.

Meanwhile, hours after Politico dropped the news about Kushner’s security downgrade, the Washington Post – where John Podesta now hangs his hat, reported that officials from at least four countries – China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates have explored ways to manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his “complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” The story cited current and former US intelligence officials – and noted that it is unclear on whether the cited countries took any action. 

White House officials, including National Security Advisor HR McMaster were reportedly uncomfortable about some of Kushner’s contacts, and eventually worked out a system where any contacts he had with foreign officials were to be carefully monitored.

Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel, said one former White House official.

Kushner has an unusually complex set of business arrangements and foreign entanglements for a senior White House aide, experts have said. But his behavior while in office has only drawn more scrutiny and raised concerns that he would be unable to obtain a final security clearance, which he needs to perform the many jobs Trump has entrusted to him, from negotiating foreign trade deals to overseeing a Middle East peace process. –WaPo

Kushner’s family business, the Kushner Companies, was famously having money troubles tied to 666 Fifth Avenue, “the most expensive building ever purchased”, in New York City at least. Though earlier today the Wall Street Journal reported that the family business was planning to buy out Vornado Realty’s stake in the building.

Of course – as we also noted yesterday – a key piece of context is buried more than a dozen paragraphs deep: The notion that foreign governments routinely discuss how they can influence senior administration officials – not just Kushner.

Foreign governments routinely discuss ways they can influence senior officials in all administrations.

“Every country will seek to find their point of leverage,” said one person familiar with intelligence intercepts of foreign officials discussing Kushner.

But Kushner came to his position with an unusually complex set of business holdings and a family company facing significant debt issues.

In light of what appears to be yet another nothingburger – perhaps Podesta’s tweet about Jared wearing kevlar was nothing more than hyperbole – unless of course he meant it literally.

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