Feb. 14 (UPI) — After photos and video of U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussing a North Korean missile test during a gathering at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, the chairman of a Congressional committee is investigating whether classified information was mishandled.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz sent a letter Tuesday to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asking about security measures undertaken during the gathering at the Trump-owned resort after it appeared documents and information were being reviewed in public.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during the daily press briefing Tuesday afternoon that no classified information had been exposed, in addition to a secure area having been set up — and used twice — for Trump to receive updates on North Korea and other situations.
Images emerged online after the gathering that showed resort members using cell phone flashlights to help Trump and Abe look at what appeared to be documents, and one person posted a photo with an official claiming to be holding the “nuclear football,” which includes a secure communication system used to in the event of a nuclear launch.
“Discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions, are presumptively sensitive,” Chaffetz wrote in the letter to 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.”
Setting a deadline of Feb. 28, Chaffetz asked the White House to proved an explanation of security protocols at Mar-a-Lago, identification of documents and their classification level that were reviewed at the dinner table and other common areas of the resort and whether classified information was discussed in common areas, especially if cell phones were in use nearby.
Chaffetz also asks about security protocols, aside from those for the area set up for secure delivery of sensitive information, and how Mar-a-Lago guests, employees and residents are vetted to “ensure that they are not foreign agents of spies on behalf of a foreign government.”
Republicans in Congress downplayed the incident, suggesting they took the administration’s word that proper precautions had been taken and nothing inappropriate was discussed in private.
“It’s my understanding that no classified information was discussed,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. “And talking about foreign policy at the dinner table is perfectly appropriate.”