Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort posed rare security challenges, experts say

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The seizure of classified US government documents from Donald Trump’s sprawling Mar-a-Lago retreat spotlights the ongoing national security concerns presented by the former president, and the home he dubbed the Winter White House, some security experts say.

Trump is under federal investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act, which makes it unlawful to spy for another country or mishandle US defence information, including sharing it with people not authorised to receive it, a search warrant shows.

As president, Trump sometimes shared information, regardless of its sensitivity.

Early in his presidency, he spontaneously gave highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister about a planned Islamic State in Iraq and Syria operation while he was in the Oval Office, US officials said at the time.

But it was at Mar-a-Lago, where well-heeled members and guests attended weddings and fundraising dinners and frolicked on a breezy ocean patio, that US intelligence seemed especially at risk.

The Secret Service said when Trump was president that it does not determine who is granted access to the club, but does do physical screenings to make sure no one brings in prohibited items, and further screening for guests in proximity to the president and other protectees.

The Justice Department’s search warrant raises concerns about national security, said former DOJ official Mary McCord.

“Clearly they thought it was very serious to get these materials back into secured space,” McCord said.

“Even just retention of highly classified documents in improper storage – particularly given Mar-a-Lago, the foreign visitors there and others who might have connections with foreign governments and foreign agents – creates a significant national security threat.”

Trump, in a statement on his social media platform, said the records were “all declassified” and placed in “secure storage.”

McCord said, however, she saw no “plausible argument that he had made a conscious decision about each one of these to declassify them before he left.”

After leaving office, she said, he did not have the power to declassify information.

Monday’s seizure by FBI agents of multiple sets of documents and dozens of boxes, including information about US defence and a reference to the “French President,” poses a frightening scenario for intelligence professionals.

“It’s a nightmarish environment for a careful handling of highly classified information,” said a former US intelligence officer. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Disclaimer: This report is automatically generated from worldwide news services. NTN is not responsible for its content and does not moderate it.

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