Senate intel chairman wants review to determine if Trump’s hoarding of secret papers compromised security

·3 min read

The chair of the House Intelligence Committee and other Democrats slammed former president Donald Trump for carelessly handling documents containing some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets after a redacted version of the affidavit used to secure a warrant for the search of his Florida home showed the ex-president had documents marked as containing intelligence from confidential human sources.

In a statement, Virginia Senator Mark Warner said it appeared, based on the affidavit, that the “improperly handled documents at Mar-a-Lago” — the Palm Beach mansion turned private club where Mr Trump maintains his primary residence and official post-presidential office — included “some of our most sensitive intelligence”.

Mr Warner said the spectre of loose intelligence secrets being improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago was “one reason” his committee has made a bipartisan request for a “damage assessment of any national security threat posed by the mishandling of this information,” and added that the Department of Justice’s ongoing probe into the matter “must be allowed to proceed without interference”.

The Virginia Democrat’s comments came shortly after the release of a redacted version of the 38-page document, which FBI agents submitted to a Florida magistrate judge on 8 August.

The document showed that a group of 15 boxes retrieved from Mr Trump’s home by the National Archives and Records Administration in January contained “184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as confidential, 92 documents marked as secret, and 25 documents marked as top secret”.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote on Twitter that Mr Trump had not merely taken “his own notes to his beach house”.

“He took information that protects our troops. Then refused to give it back. That is a crime,” Mr Swalwell said.

Mr Trump and his attorneys have claimed that he unilaterally declassified the records at issue through a “standing order” declassifying anything taken from the White House office space to the residential portion of the building.

The ex-president has also claimed that he was entitled to take the records in question, and in a letter to the Department of Justice, his lawyers argued that the law criminalising the mishandling of classified information does not apply to current or former presidents.

But justice department attorneys said in a subsequent letter that Mr Trump’s home and office at Mar-a-Lago were not a suitable place to store the sort of classified information found in the boxes returned to Nara.

Asked whether it was acceptable for presidents to take home classified information, Mr Trump’s successor — President Joe Biden — said it “depends on the circumstances” before he left the White House for a taping of Jay Leno’s Garage late Friday.

“For example, I have in my home a cabined-off space that is completely secure. I'm taking home with me today today's PDB. It's locked, a person with me — military with me I read it. I lock it back up and give it to the military,” Mr Biden said.