The Constitution purposely vests tremendous power in the president as chief executive and commander in chief. One element of this is the right to choose the advisers they wish and not be subject to political or administrative roadblocks.
President Donald Trump made appointments to many positions that require the advisers to obtain a security clearance. Approximately 25 clearances were initially denied but later overruled and granted. A whistleblower is now testifying to Congress, saying this is a major problem.
It is a fair concern; however, the president has the prerogative to evaluate the situation and decide that a clearance should still be granted. In many of these cases, supervisory personnel in the responsible agency overruled the initial decisions of their own first-line personnel, not the president or his appointed officials.
It should also be noted the rulings are subjective, not objective, and often based on the judgment of an individual that a particular collection of concerns rises to the level that cause a denial.
Some of the affected officials were very well known to Trump, including daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. If they presented a risk in the minds of administrative officials, it seems reasonable the president could consider that and decide he still wanted their advice and counsel. In the end, access to classified information is fully within his purview, and he can share it with whomever he sees fit to best accomplish his duties.
Let’s also consider whether Trump has been fairly treated by the permanent bureaucracy in Washington. It’s important to consider this issue over security clearances could be another way to undermine Trump’s presidency.
Determining who will have access to our national secrets is a powerful responsibility. When we elect a president, we place the final decision about security clearances in their hands.
Jim Hanson is president of Security Studies Group and served in the Army Special Forces.