Kelly acknowledged “we should — and in the future, must — do better,” but he does not admit any personal wrongdoing.
In the memo, first reported by , Kelly says going forward the FBI should hand deliver to the White House its background investigations on individuals in senior positions and “verbally brief the White House counsel on any information in those files they deem to be significantly derogatory.”
Kelly’s memo comes in the wake of a White House scandal that called into question how security clearances are issued, and who in the White House is able to gain access to classified information without the proper clearance.
Porter, who was accused of domestic violence by his two ex-wives, was able to access classified information as the President’s Staff Secretary while only holding an interim clearance.
Kelly’s memo says that future interim clearances must be granted a temporary clearance of 180 days, with an option to extend for an additional 90 days “if no significant derogatory information that would call into question whether interim status is appropriate.”
Kelly Memo on Security Clearances by ABC News Politics on Scribd
It also says that individuals working under interim clearance status, as Porter did, would only be able to access highly classified information with “explicit Chief of Staff’s approval, which would be granted only in the most compelling circumstances.”
The memo implies Kelly had no prior knowledge of the seriousness of the claims against Porter, who was handling classified documents while working closely with Trump.
The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats criticized the current clearance system during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this week. “The process is broken. It needs to be reformed,” said Coats. “We have situations where we need people in places but we don’t have [clearance].”
The White House came under fire for its response to Porter, and questions surrounding who knew what — and when — about Porter’s health.
Vice President Mike Pence admitted on Wednesday that the White House “could have handled this better.”
“This administration has no tolerance for domestic violence, nor should any American,” Pence said.
But when asked by the if the situation could have been handled better, Kelly said “No, it was all done right.”
Evan Vucci/AP, FILEWhite House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House staff secretary Rob Porter to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 29, 2017.
The White House has not said who, if anyone, was briefed by the FBI briefed on concerns about Rob Porter. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate this week that it gave the White House four reports on Porter’s background.
The President has voiced frustration over the handling of domestic abuse allegations involving one of his closest aides, and even discussed possible replaces for Kelly, sources close to the president told ABC News.
But for now, Kelly is focusing on future projects. Kelly’s memo states that he will create a working group, made up of White House counsel Don McGahn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Wray. The working group, wrote Kelly, will study the clearance process and “modernize standards across the Executive Branch.”
“It is clear that new administrations will face similar challenges in the future and one of the most important things that a new White House staff must do correctly starting on Inauguration Day is to get the security clearance and suitability reviews processes right,” wrote Kelly.
“We have a duty to the American people to ensure that, if nothing else, clearance and security protocols are passed down and become institutional knowledge of the White House.”