Filling out a standard federal security-clearance application took up three days of Don Beyer’s life.
It was a long weekend in 2008. Beyer, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia, was preparing to spend 11 weeks at the Department of Commerce on behalf of Barack Obama’s transition team.
To do that, Beyer needed to fill out a boring document known as an SF-86 – a document that now has senior White House adviser, and Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner in serious trouble. And to do that, Beyer had to get his immediate family to rack their brains to recall all their foreign contacts over the past seven years– something that now threatens to ensnare Ivanka Trump, another senior White House adviser, the president’s daughter and Kushner’s wife.
It was a lot of work, Beyer recalls. He had a substantial number of foreign interactions, dating back to his origins as an Army brat, born in Trieste when it was still a free territory on the Adriatic. To get his SF-86 completed accurately, he had to canvas his wife, his sisters, his brother and his father for every foreign contact they had in the recent past.
“I think they were all a little fascinated,” said Beyer, who went on to be Obama’s ambassador to Switzerland before getting elected to Congress in 2014 as a Democrat representing the northern Virginia suburbs of DC. The disclosure form ended up being 99 pages long.
Were it not for that experience, Beyer and his staff might not have grasped that Kushner’s SF-86 problems were also an issue for Ivanka Trump. While Beyer has no evidence Trump had dissembled about her own foreign contacts on her SF-86, he wrote on Wednesday to the FBI requesting them to review what she disclosed about those of her husband and brother, Donald Trump Jr.
“What I do suspect is that if he wasn’t disclosing, then it probably never lit up that she needed to disclose also. But the law is pretty clear. We have no reason to think she didn’t describe her own [foreign contacts], unless this is a family habit,” Beyer told The Daily Beast.
It’s the latest subplot to the Trump-Russia scandal.
Last week, the New York Times revealed that Donald Jr and Kushner met in June 2016 at Trump Tower with a bevy of government-connected Russian contacts. They include Kremlin-allied attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya; Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military intelligence officer accused of spearheading a hacking enterprise; and Ike Kaveladze, whom federal investigators accuse of laundering over a billion dollars worth of Russian money.
The meeting’s purpose, according to the British music publicist who set it up, was to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia’s chief prosecutor, as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
It turns out that Kushner disclosed that meeting – belatedly. After the Times reported in April that Kushner had left off two other contacts with Russian agents, the ambassador Sergei Kislyak and the FSB-tied head of a state-owned bank, the first son-in-law quietly updated his SF-86 to include over 100 interactions with foreign officials.
“Forgetting one or two or three – you know, people amend FEC reports and financial disclosures, yeah, they do that all the time, and that’s OK,” Beyer said. “Forgetting everything seems more than a little unusual. And having to have three corrections before he finally gets everything, again pretty unusual.”
Beyer’s history with the near-proctological clearance form got him and his staff figuring that a review of Ivanka Trump’s form would determine if she engaged in what the letter termed “similar deception.” She’s legally obligated to disclose Don Jr. and Jared’s foreign contacts. If she didn’t, it would raise questions about whether she knew about those meetings; if she did, it would raise questions about why Jared didn’t.
When asked a series of questions regarding this story, a White House official responded to The Daily Beast simply by saying, “the White House has a longstanding policy of not commenting on security clearances or other personnel security matters.” Kushner’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, either.
Beyer began circulating his FBI letter to House colleagues late last week. Ultimately 21 other Democrats signed on. No Republicans did, though Beyer said he sent the text to all 241 of them.
Mike Conaway, the Texas GOPer who is now co-helming the House intelligence committee’s Trump-Russia inquiry, wouldn’t talk about whether the FBI ought to review Ivanka Trump’s SF-86.
“Well again, I’m not going to talk about what my investigation is, other than just to answer the questions that, you know, what did the Russians do or not do, what’d the Trump team do or not do—that kind of stuff,” Conaway told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Beyer has yet to hear back from the FBI. The FBI declined comment to The Daily Beast, as did Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s representatives.
“I don’t think it’s life or death for the future of the republic,” Beyer said of his pressure on Ivanka Trump’s SF-86.
“But I do think it’s potentially part of a pattern of ignoring both the spirit and the letter of the law. And it certainly gets into the incredible entanglements that the Trump family has, which makes it difficult to govern independently of all their financial entanglements across many different countries.”