If you’ve ever filled out a form SF-86 for a U.S. government security clearance, you’ll know the hassle of dealing with the sheer volume of information it entails. Listing contacts, personal, financial, and travel information in enormous, painstaking detail isn’t trivial, and even small errors will get the form kicked back to you or your clearance rejected. Applicants are required to spell out in great detail the specifics of foreign travel and overseas contacts. Investigators need to know where you’ve made your money and to whom you have debts.
I did it in my early twenties when my life was relatively uncomplicated, and it was still a pain in the ass. It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be.
It’s even harder when you’re a corrupt, entitled snake who repeatedly lies about your finances to federal investigators and serves as a living, breathing poster child for privileged venality. It’s even harder when you’ve rather clumsily attempted to use both your familial relationship and proximity to the president of the United States to save your family’s failing real-estate empire.
All of which helps explain Jared Kushner’s very bad day on Tuesday. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a man who has compromised himself and his supposed values to accommodate and indulge President Trumphausen’s various whims, impulses, urges, feuds, and paranoid episodes, finally drew the line and busted Kushner’s security clearance down from TS/SCI to Walmart Greeter Background Check (Provisional).
Hear that? That was America’s intelligence community, down to the last GS-7, breathing a loud sigh of relief.
Kushner is a man who needs a billion dollars fast, and is willing to cast shame on the winds to get there. The stench of his venality and desperation hangs around him like stripper perfume, cloying and obvious. Jared all but hiked up his sassy pink petticoats while whistling “Hey, sailor!” to the Chinese, Israeli, Arab, and Russian investors he begged to invest in his failing 666 Fifth Avenue white elephant.
Kushner has no one to blame but himself. His ambition exceeded his abilities by orders of magnitude so vast it would take a team of advanced mathematicians a generation to devise a system by which to measure the differential. Even his simpering beta-male, child-voiced affect couldn’t hide his spectacular reach and overpowering thirst for the power, influence, and financial rewards of Washington.
It wasn’t just that Kushner omitted tens of millions of dollars of investments from his SF-86 and was forced to revise again and again and again, or that his listing of foreign contacts and engagements was glaringly insufficient. It’s that he lied and omitted information in a way that was painfully obvious to the FBI and government officials examining his qualifications for the most elevated intelligence clearances. Then, the whispers in foreign capitals started; Kushner, they whispered, is for sale. American intelligence was listening.
Tuesday night, The Washington Post broke a massive story on intercepted intelligence from the UAE, China, Israel, and Mexico in which foreign officials capered in glee over how to manipulate and bribe the Naif Prince of Trumplandia. It’s one thing to be a target. It’s another thing to be an easy target.
The knowledge that every foreign intelligence agency in the world saw Kushner’s desperation for cash no doubt set America’s beleaguered counterintelligence community into a state of raw panic. The fact that Kushner is up to his hot-yogaed ass in dealings with Sergei Kislyak and was a key member of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in which Russia offered a quid for a still mysterious quo is just the icing on that cake.
Until today, Jared Kushner was one of a handful of recipients of the President’s Daily Brief, a product that compiles the crown jewels of the American intelligence community’s input and analysis. He was exposed to source and methods, high-grade analytical product, and the darkest secrets we have gleaned from the most sensitive sources. Although President Postliterate Bestwords has his PDB presented in graphic-novel form or performed by costumed dancers, Jared was apparently an aggressive consumer of intelligence, ordering up briefings and information outside even his broad purview. What he knows after a year in this position makes him the juiciest intelligence target in the world.
Trump’s nepotism always put the soft-handed Kushner on an impossible pedestal. By the time it was clear even to a slowcoach like Trump that Jared couldn’t be the Minister of All Portfolios, it was too late. The imagined power couple of Jared and Ivanka waged their snippy, passive-aggressive media war from their offices in the West Wing, leaking diligently to boot first Reince Priebus, and then Steve Bannon from the White House. The humiliation of being ousted by Jarvanka must rankle Bannon to this day. Kelly was their next target, but he moved first, and struck hard.
For now, Kelly has skillfully maneuvered his boss into a tight corner. Trump can either give in to the simpering “But Daaaaaaaady” whinge of Princess Ivanka and restore Jared to his full suite of security clearances, or face a tornado of razor cuts from leaks over Jared’s business dealings and behavior.
The almost certain knowledge that Robert Mueller isn’t done with Jared by a long stretch doesn’t make it any easier for Trump, even as the red flags thrown up by Rod Rosenstein over the president’s son-in-law and very special adviser were one more sign of the urgency of closing up the leakiest, riskiest White House in history. The best part of this trap is that Trump (R-Oppositional Defiant Disorder) will be tempted to do the one thing that will make his political situation more politically tenuous and legally risky by restoring Jared’s clearances. It’s within his rights as the president, but he would be dumber than a sack of hammers to do so. A smart president would have already told Jared to pack up and get the hell out, but... oh, who are we kidding?
This battle was only ever going to end one way, and in the war of the Deep State vs. Team Trump, the bad guys often make it easy by being greedy, sloppy, and stupid. Jared was all three.