Rep. Jason Chaffetz is asking the White House for information about security protocols at Mar-a-Lago after President Donald Trump pored over documents related to North Korea at a table on the club’s outdoor terrace.
The request is significant as it marks the first time the House Oversight Committee — led by Chaffetz, R-Utah — has requested information from the Trump White House.
Trump conferred with aides, spoke on the phone and looked over documents on the club’s terrace Saturday night after North Korea test fired a ballistic missile, its first such test since Trump took office. The flurry of activity took place a few steps from where club members were dining, and some guests posted photos of the scene on social media.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whom Trump was entertaining for the weekend, was present and also took part in the conversations.
“Discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions, are presumptively [sic] sensitive,” Chaffetz wrote in a letter to Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
“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.”
Chaffetz has come under increasing pressure to investigate Trump — particularly his potential conflicts of interest and ties to Russia — as scandals mount during the president’s first month in office. The lawmaker’s letter to the White House came on the same day he drew criticism for saying he would not launch a probe related to Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-national security adviser, because the situation is “taking care of itself.”
Flynn resigned Monday night after The Washington Post reported he spoke with Russia’s ambassador about U.S. sanctions prior to Trump’s inauguration and allowed Vice President Mike Pence to publicly deny the conversation had taken place.
The North Korea incident took place as several questions about Mar-a-Lago’s security remained unanswered. The property in Palm Beach, Florida, is a regular weekend retreat for Trump, but it was not clear until Tuesday that it had a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, for receiving classified information.
The White House has denied Trump handled sensitive information on the Mar-a-Lago terrace. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that Trump was briefed about the missile test in a SCIF prior to his dinner on the terrace.
The president and Abe were “only talking about the logistics” of a press conference planned for later that evening in view of guests, Spicer said at a news conference Tuesday.
Chaffetz asked Priebus to describe security protocols at Mar-a-Lago, including whether guests and staff are vetted “to ensure they are not foreign agents or spies,” and the classification level of the documents Trump reviewed on the terrace.
He also asked to know whether classified information was discussed within earshot of guests or possible recording devices.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Elise Viebeck