McCain called the contradiction between Trump's denial in the security clearance controversy and a new Times report "the first crack in her veneer”

By Adam Carlson
March 01, 2019 07:35 PM
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Cindy Ord/Getty; Riccardo Savi/Getty

Meghan McCain did not mince words on Friday about Ivanka Trump following a New York Times report that President Donald Trump directly intervened in the matter of Ivanka’s husband’s security clearance — a revelation that, if true, directly contradicts repeated Trump family statements to the contrary.

For example, in an interview with ABC News last month, Ivanka said her dad “had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.”

Not so, according to the Times report: “President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.”

According to the Times, the president’s move in May “so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been ‘ordered’ to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.”

Kushner, who like Ivanka is a senior aide in the administration, initially had an interim clearance, the Times reported. A final ruling on his clearance was held up by a background check that took more than a year, and officials had issues including questions about Kushner’s international business connections.

He received his top-secret clearance last May, the same month as the directive from the president, as described by the Times.

The question of Kushner’s pending security clearance drew scrutiny from the start amid larger concerns about the president employing two relatives in the White House, which critics say too closely blends the personal and political.

But the president has denied any role in the matter. As the Times explained Friday, he has the authority to grant security clearances to anyone, though as a matter of propriety it is usually not done directly.

“I was never involved with the security,” the president told the Times in January. “I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people, actually. But I don’t want to get involved in that stuff.”

In a statement to PEOPLE on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s attorney, said in his own statement, in part, that Kushner’s clearance “was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone.”

The statement, however, did not specifically rebut the details laid out by the Times‘ reporting.

“In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone,” Mirijanian said. “That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”

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The controversy’s latest developments were taken by up the View panel on Friday — especially because co-host Abby Huntsman was the one who interviewed Ivanka for ABC last month.

Huntsman asked Ivanka then about questions over her and Kushner’s security clearance.

“I was, one, shocked that she was willing to answer it,” Huntsman said on The View. “But, two, that she was so clearly [claiming] her father had zero involvement at all. …It’s the president putting his own interests above the security of this country when there are some very serious questions.”

McCain agreed.

“Props to Abby for catching her in her first public lie,” she said of Ivanka. “I mean really, job well done.”

McCain called the contradiction between Ivanka’s denial and the Times report “the first crack in her veneer.”

“I mean being caught lying on air is a different thing,” she said, noting longstanding reports that Ivanka is as image-conscious as her father — even “vociferously, intensely” so.

“One of the reasons I don’t like her is I don’t know what she’s saying,” McCain said. “To me, there never seems like there’s a real person in there.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway reportedly defended Ivanka on Fox News on Friday, saying: “If Ivanka Trump chose to comment, then she probably has knowledge that some of us do not have.”