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Chief of Staff Kelly overhauls White House clearance procedure

18 February 2018

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, under pressure over his handling of allegations of domestic abuse against a top aide, has approved an overhaul of how the White House manages security-clearance investigations, acknowledging missteps but putting the onus on the FBI and the Justice Department to now hand-deliver updates and provide more information.

"In the past", Kelly wrote, "credible and substantiated reports of past domestic abuse - even physical abuse - were not considered automatic disqualifiers for suitability for employment or a security clearance".

Later, Kelly writes, "But recent events have exposed some remaining shortcomings", beyond the changes Kelly implemented since taking over as chief of staff past year.

The document, titled "Improvements to the clearance process", is addressed to McGahn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray are all copied. The American people deserve a White House staff that meets the highest standards and that has been carefully vetted - especially those who work closely with the President or handle sensitive national security information, ' he said.

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As CBS News has reported, Porter operated on an interim security clearance for a year in the White House.

According to a memo to other high-ranking officials, background investigations are to be hand-delivered to the White House's legal team. Facing a credibility crisis of his own, Kelly sought to rewrite his actions, telling staff he had acted more swiftly than widely believed to obtain Porter's resignation. It also seeks to reduce the "tie lag" between discovery of derogatory information to disclosure to the White House.

That, too, was contested by Mr. Wray, who said the check had been completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last month and the security clearance was withheld because the claims by Ms. Holderness and second wife Jennifer Willoughby were deemed credible. Administration officials also have suggested that results of that investigation were closely held within the office.

"There isn't a defined timeframe but that kind of chaos for individuals as vital as White House staffers is not what I understand to be standard practice", Moss said, adding that he has "heard of government contractors being pressed to quickly fill out an SF86 in a matter of days" but "that has nearly always been in situations where the person already holds a clearance and all they need to do is update their prior submission".

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Kelly's response to the allegations raised suspicion after he made statements that appeared to conflict with the White House's comments on when it became aware of the allegations.

Mr. Wray, who was appointed to the job by President Trump after he fired James Comey nine months ago, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that in doing a background check before Mr.

He says the White House will now require "estimated return dates to create benchmarks and set expectations on timing", although he does not cite details for how that would work.

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Chief of Staff Kelly overhauls White House clearance procedure