What does it say about this administration when the majority of its top-level staff—up to and including the president himself—cannot or could not pass security-clearance background checks?
Last month, CNN reported that nearly a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, at least 100 senior-level White House staffers—including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and the now departed Rob Porter—were working with interim clearances. This poses a problem when senior-level staff with full clearance have to be careful about what information they share with those who have only interim clearance.
As of November, more than 130 White House staffers were working without full security clearance.
Last month we also learned that both Porter and White House speechwriter David Sorensen had histories of domestic abuse. This is something that, at least in the case of Porter, could have prevented him from gaining full, permanent clearance.
The president is presumably allowing people to work with interim clearance, and as of now, we don’t know which of those staffers have since gained full clearance.
Mike Rogers, a former Republican representative who chaired the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN last month: “The security clearance process is critical to keeping America’s secrets. Foreign intelligence services look for vulnerabilities in individuals with access to our most sensitive information. Not following the process is a disservice not only to the individual but to our countries security interests. It’s unusual that so many have taken so long.”
Of course, the White House is tight-lipped about both the security-clearance process and which members of the White House staff and administration do not have full clearance.
Still, we have to question the implications for our national security when even the president himself would not have security clearance if it didn’t automatically come with the job.
Trump also would not pass a full background check. There are things in his past that would render him ineligible for full security clearance. And yet, there he sits in the Oval Office—with access to our military secrets and the power to launch us into nuclear war.
As we wait for special counsel Robert Mueller to figure out whether or not Trump obstructed justice and whether or not he was a pawn for the Russians, we need to be worried about who else the president has been running his mouth to. We’ve seen from his frequent outbursts on Twitter that he lacks self-control and decorum.
The sloppiness with which this security-clearance issue has been handled is deplorable.
According to CNN, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was given access to top-secret information while working with interim status.
Also worth noting is the fact that former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman was also working there without security clearance. She had no security clearance because she never applied for it.
We should be afraid. We should be very afraid.