Washington (CNN) – Thirty to 40 White House officials and administration political appointees are still operating without full security clearances, including senior adviser to President Donald Trump Jared Kushner and — until recently — White House staffer Rob Porter, according to a US official and a source familiar with the situation.
The White House claims that the backlog of interim security clearances is a procedural consequence of the review process carried out by the FBI and White House Office of Security, which can take time to complete.
But several sources, including intelligence officials who have served previous Democratic and GOP administrations, describe the backlog as very unusual and make clear that the process should have been completed after a year in office.
Asked on Thursday why so many White House officials were still operating on interim clearances, White House spokesman Raj Shah said he wasn’t able to discuss specifics of the clearance process.
One current and one former US official said the backlog could indicate that there are remaining questions or obstacles from the intelligence community and law enforcement conducting the review.
But unanswered questions do not necessarily indicate that law enforcement has identified an issue that would prevent that individual from ultimately obtaining a clearance, according to Mark Zaid, an attorney who often represents clients in clearance cases.
According to Zaid, the fact that some executive branch officials are still on interim clearances is not surprising given that most of the individuals joining this administration have more complicated backgrounds than is typical and that would delay formal adjudication.
In prior administrations, most of the people who were brought on to fill key executive branch positions had previously been cleared for government jobs, Zaid said, adding that most of those individuals in the Trump administration have never worked in government or did so a long time ago.
The fact that many of these officials are very wealthy and worked in areas of finance with ties to foreign nationals and governments would also contribute to a delay in the clearance process, he said.
Several officials — including Kushner — have also made various paperwork errors while filling out forms required as part of the check.
In October, Charles Phalen, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, told lawmakers he has “never seen that level of mistakes” when asked about numerous omissions in Kushner’s security clearance application.
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