Experts are sounding the alarm concerning the danger of leaving classified and even top secret U.S. government documents unattended and unprotected at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and golf resort— for months.
The sensitive papers might have been accessed by club members, staff and scores of unscreened guests at wedding receptions, parties and fundraisers — a minimum of until they were ordered locked up in June by U.S. officials.
Among the retrieved boxes of data that every one legally must have been held by the National Archives since Trump left office were reportedly kept in a storage room near a club pool repeatedly used for club events.
In 2019, when security was far stricter during Trump’s presidency, a Chinese national loaded down with several phones and other electronic equipment was arrested on the club. She bypassed security by saying she was going to the pool.
“Just the retention of highly classified documents in improper storage — particularly given Mar-a-Lago [with] the foreign visitors there and others who may need connections with foreign governments and foreign agents — creates a major national security threat,” former Department of Justice official Mary McCord told Reuters.
A former U.S. intelligence officer told the wire service: “It’s a nightmarish environment for a careful handling of highly classified information. It’s only a nightmare.”
FBI agents on Monday removed 20 boxes of documents with 11 sets of classified information and a few top secret information from Mar-a-Lago, in response to the warrant and property receipt utilized by the FBI to conduct the search.
The highest secret information is imagined to be held only in a secure government facility. The Washington Post reported that a few of the classified documents involved details about nuclear weapons, which was a key reason for the urgent search.
In light of his cache of presidency documents, Trump is under investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act, which prohibits Americans from spying or mishandling defense information, including sharing it with those not authorized to receive it, in response to the warrant.
Trump has a status for being sloppy about handling sensitive information. He blurted out highly classified details about a planned Islamic State operation to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergei Kislyak during a gathering within the Oval Office early in his presidency.
U.S. officials told The Washington Post that Trump’s disclosure jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
Trump also examined intelligence reports and openly discussed a response to a reported North Korean missile test while dining outdoors at Mar-a-Lago with Japan’s then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2017 — while fans used their cell phones to take photos
“What we saw was Trump be so lax in security that he was having a sensitive meeting regarding a possible war topic where non-U.S. government personnel could observe and photograph,” Mark Zaid, a lawyer who makes a speciality of national security cases, told Reuters. “It will have been easy for somebody to even have had a tool that heard and recorded what Trump was saying as well.”
Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told The Washington Post in an article Saturday that Trump was disdainful of the system of classified security secrets.
“His sense was that the people who find themselves within the intel business are incompetent, and he knew higher,” Kelly said. “He didn’t imagine within the classification system.”