Tillerson declines to answer question on Kushner's security clearance issues

During a tour of Africa, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sidestepped a question on Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner's diplomatic portfolio and security clearance Monday. As Tillerson took reporters' questions during a joint press conference with Nigeria's Foreign Minister during his overseas trip to Africa, one reporter asked him about Kushner and the fact that he had met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto last week without inviting the U.S. ambassador, who announced her resignation recently.

"While we've been here in Africa, Jared Kushner met with the Mexican president without inviting your ambassador to Mexico.  He's trying to broker Mideast peace despite losing his top security clearance," the reporter asked. "And he's under mounting scrutiny over widespread reporting that his business ties to the UAE led him to push the administration side against Qatar. Can you tell us, is he an asset to your diplomacy?"

Tillerson declined to weigh in, saying only, "As to this trip to Africa has been really important for the administration and that's what I've been focused on this past week as you know. I think with respect to Mr. Kushner's portfolio of assignments that the president has given him, I think it's best to leave any comment on that to either himself or the White House."

Kushner's interim security clearance was recently downgraded after White House chief of staff John Kelly announced that all top-level interim security clearances would be dropped for White House staffers whose permanent security clearance had been pending since before June 1. Despite his public role in the Trump White House as a key aide in brokering a potential peace deal in the Middle East, Kushner has so far failed to obtain a permanent security clearance. 

It is not clear what specifically held up Kushner's permanent security clearance. However, officials in the White House have been concerned that Kushner was "naive and being tricked" in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they only wanted to deal with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel, CBS News' Margaret Brennan reported.