WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, asking for information on the Trump administration’s handling of potentially secure documents at Mar-a-Lago this past weekend.
The request comes in the wake of photos taken by Mar-a-Lago Club members and widely shared on social media showing Trump and his aides reviewing documents alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team as they prepared for an impromptu news conference to address a reported North Korean missile launch.
In the images, Trump, Abe and their staff members are huddled around a dinner table on Mar-a-Lago’s open-air terrace. Diners present have reported that there were about 100 club members and guests present.
The White House has pushed back at critics who have said the setting was not secure, saying Monday that there were no classified documents discussed at the table, and that the president was briefed in a separate, secure room.
“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,” the Utah Republican wrote.
Here is the full text of the letter Chaffetz sent to Priebus:
February 14, 2017
The Honorable Reince Priebus
Chief of Staff
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
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. 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.”
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. 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:
1. An explanation of whether proper security protocols were followed with regard to discussions at Mar-a-Lago, as well as who set those protocols;
2. 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;
3. 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;
4. 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
5. 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.