President Donald Trump granted security clearances to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband over the refusal of his then chief of staff and White House counsel, according to a Wednesday CNN report.
CNN’s article, citing “three people familiar with the matter,” comes only days after a New York Times report that the president directly intervened in the matter of son-in-law Jared Kushner’s security clearance.
Both revelations, if true, directly contradict repeated Trump family statements to the contrary.
Kushner and Ivanka, his wife, are both senior aides to the president.
Last week, following the Times article, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “We don’t comment on security clearances.”
Asked about the CNN story on Wednesday, Sanders again told PEOPLE that they do not discuss security clearances.
CNN’s reporting echoes the Times account in several ways. As he did with Kushner’s clearance, per the Times, the president pressured John Kelly and Don McGahn to grant Ivanka’s despite Kelly and McGahn recommending against it.
The president has the legal authority to issue clearances to anyone, unilaterally, though as a matter of propriety it is usually not done so directly. Cases are instead usually left to the discretion of the White House personnel security office following an FBI background check.
“After concerns were raised by the personnel office,” CNN reported, “Trump pushed Kelly and McGahn to make the decision on his daughter and son-in-law’s clearances so it did not appear as if he was tainting the process to favor his family.”
According to CNN, after Kelly and McGahn both said no the president granted the security clearances himself.
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,” contradicting the Times and CNN reports.
Sources told CNN that it is possible Ivanka was “unaware” of both any red flags raised during her background check and of the president’s involvement.
It remains unclear what issues stalled Ivanka’s clearance. Citing a source, CNN reported only that “officials had concerns about granting a clearance that were separate from those raised about her husband.”
Kushner 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.
Last February, Kushner’s clearance was lowered as the result of a rule change. But he received his top-secret clearance in May, the same month as the directive from the president, as described by the Times.
In a statement to PEOPLE last week, a spokesman for Kushner’s attorney said 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.
“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,” Peter 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.”
Mirijanian did not respond to a request seeking further comment on Wednesday.
The question of Kushner and Ivanka’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.
President Trump has denied any role in the matter.
“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.”
Read more: people.com