House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz is launching an investigation into whether White House officials mishandled classified information over the weekend when President Donald Trump discussed a North Korean missile test with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The two leaders were seen discussing the test and viewing documents in the public dining room of Mar-a-lago, the President’s Florida resort, on Saturday night when the test was conducted. “Accounts and photographs from other diners seem to indicate these communications occurred in the presence of other guests,” Chaffetz wrote in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
But Chaffetz wrote, “discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions, are presumptively sensitive.”
Chaffetz also asked Priebus to detail what kind of vetting procedures were put in place for guests or employees of the club ‘in order to ensure that they are not foreign agents or spies on behalf of a foreign government.”But Chaffetz wrote, “discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions, are presumptively sensitive.”
The committee has not scheduled a hearing on the matter but Chaffetz gave a February 28 deadline for the White House to respond.
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:
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.