In a new letter, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — the chairpersons of the House oversight and intelligence committees, respectively — asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines for an investigation within the intelligence community into the situation surrounding government records at Mar-a-Lago.
Concerns about government records at Mar-a-Lago, a Trump-owned resort in southern Florida where he’s largely resided since leaving office, drove the recent FBI raid of the property. Almost a dozen caches of classified materials were recovered from Mar-a-Lago during the search, including some documents identified as top secret and sensitive compartmented information, meaning they’re meant for viewing only within the confines of a particular kind of secure government facility known as a SCIF. Although exactly where each document recovered in the raid was found at Mar-a-Lago isn’t clear, a past signed statement to which a Trump lawyer affixed their name claimed all the documents marked classified from a particular storage area were returned to U.S. authorities. What FBI agents recovered suggests that wasn’t true.
Schiff and Maloney are seeking a kind of probe known as a damage assessment, which their letter notes is used “to evaluate actual or potential damage to national security resulting from the unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence.” As they explained the issue: “The facts that are now public make clear that a damage assessment is appropriate. If you have not already done so, we request that you instruct the National Counterintelligence Executive, in consultation with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community and other Inspectors General as appropriate, to conduct a damage assessment. In addition, we ask that you commit to providing an appropriate classified briefing on the conduct of the damage assessment as soon as possible. Even as the Justice Department’s investigation proceeds, ensuring that we take all necessary steps to protect classified information and mitigate the damage to national security done by its compromise is critically important.”
The committee leaders expressed particular concern about the reported potential that documents relating to nuclear weapons, of the U.S. or some other country, were among items left behind at Mar-a-Lago. Although a report from The Washington Post identified that possibility as a law enforcement concern, it’s unclear whether such documents were eventually found at the Trump property. For understandable reasons, the federal government isn’t explaining the contents of the documents that agents took from Mar-a-Lago last week, just the nature of them. Schiff and Maloney also noted the presence of top secret/ sensitive compartmented information in what FBI agents recovered. Disclosing top secret information would create “exceptionally grave damage to the national security,” an executive order outlining relevant standards asserts.
Trump’s excuses for recent developments vary. A statement from a spokesperson claimed Donald had a standing order for the declassification of records taken to his residence, although evidence for such a thing has seemingly yet to emerge. A SCIF — which stands for secure compartmented information facility — was created at Mar-a-Lago, although it’s certainly unclear the information meant for protection by that set-up was actually protected in that way (through the facility’s usage) at Trump’s property. On surveillance tapes subpoenaed from the property, the Justice Department saw boxes getting moved into and out of a storage area known to house government records at Mar-a-Lago after one instance when the department was in communication with Trump’s team.