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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Chaffetz wants Trump to answer questions about Mar-a-Lago security



WASHINGTON — A top House Republican wants the White House to answer questions about President Trump's handling of sensitive information while at Mar-a-Lago as North Korea tested a ballistic missile.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter today to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asking for details about documents seen in photographs, whether classified information was discussed in open and the vetting of Mar-a-Lago guests.

The inquiry comes as Trump's administration is reeling from the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn -- a matter Chaffetz says he won't investigate.

The White House contends classified information wasn't discussed in public and scenes of Trump, Japanese officials and others at Mar-a-Lago reflect planning for a news conference to address North Korea.

The letter

Dear Mr. Priebus:

News reports have recounted on February 11, 2017, the President and the Prime Minister of Japan discussed North Korea’s launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile while at dinner at the Mar-a-Lago resort’s public dining area. Accounts and photographs from other diners seem to indicate these communications occurred in the presence of other guests. Reportedly, documents were provided by what appeared to be White House staff for the President’s review while the dinner proceeded. During this time, according to reports, the President made telephone calls to staff in Washington, D.C. These reports and social media accounts have suggested White House staff used their own cell phones to provide illumination for reviewing documents.[1] Separately, one Mar-a-Lago guest posted to his Facebook page a photograph with a man described to be the holder of the “nuclear football.”[2]

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said no classified information was present in the Mar-a-Lago dining room, as the President was briefed in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) both before and after the dinner.[3] Nevertheless, discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions, are presumptively sensitive. While the President is always on duty, and cannot dictate the timing of when he needs to receive sensitive information about urgent matters, we hope the White House will cooperate in providing the Committee with additional information.

Please provide the following information to the Committee as soon as possible, but no later than February 28, 2017:

An explanation of whether proper security protocols were followed with regard to discussions at Mar-a-Lago, as well as who set those protocols;

Identify the documents reviewed at the dinner table and other common areas at Mar-a-Lago, and whether any of those documents were classified or otherwise sensitive, and if so, what classification level and handling caveats applied;

An explanation of whether any classified information was discussed in common areas at Mar-a-Lago, including while any individuals were speaking or recording on cellular telephones;

An explanation about whether and how the guests, employees, and residents at Mar-a-Lago are vetted in order to ensure that they are not foreign agents or spies on behalf of a foreign government; and

In addition to the SCIF at Mar-a-Lago, what other security protocols are in place to protect sensitive information at Mar-a-Lago.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any questions regarding this request, please have your staff contact the Committee staff at (202) 225-5074.


Jason Chaffetz

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 5:08pm]


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