On February 11, 2017, President Donald Trump hosted the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, for dinner and talks at the so-called “Winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago. As dinner proceeded, news broke that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile test that reached 300 miles before plunging into the ocean, close enough to threaten Japan.
Instead of immediately retiring to a secure location where intelligence can be discussed, President Trump and his advisors-- including Steve Bannon and former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn -- and Prime Minister Abe gathered around their dinner table, located in the member restaurant, to discuss the matter.
A fellow member dining in the Mar-a-Lago restaurant took a series of photos of the Trump team huddled around cell phones, whose flashlights were being used to pore over the documents in front of them, and posted them on Facebook. The diner even posted a photo of himself and a marine carrying the “nuclear football,” the satchel carried around the president which enables quick decision around launching nuclear weapons.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the press that Trump was briefed on sensitive materials in the Secret Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) at Mar-a-Lago. However, people have questioned whether sensitive information was also discussed at the dining table. The flurry of activity by his staff - again, including his National Security Advisor - in the dining area when they presented him with documents and illuminated the documents with personal cell phones suggests that the president was learning new information about the North Korea missile test in the general, unsecured, dining room.
When this came to light, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) launched a petition and sent a tweetstorm -- a series of Twitter messages -- to the House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz, relaying 19 questions that must be answered about the security of the president’s open-air briefing at Mar-a-Lago. The next day, Rep. Chaffetz, on behalf of the Committee, sent a letter to the President’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, demanding answers to many of the questions WAND had suggested.
According to the Chaffetz letter, the White House has until February 28, 2017 to respond with the requested information.
Many of the concerns stated below are shared by WAND, the House Oversight Committee, members of the media and the general public.
Here is a list of some of the questions we asked Rep. Chaffetz:
Why wasn’t the president in a SCIF while responding to the North Korean ballistic missile launch?
Was classified information discussed or viewed by the president in the dining area?
Who thought it was appropriate to conduct national security business in front of Mar-a-Lago club members?
Has any classified information been compromised?
How does one become a Mar-a-Lago member?
Could any of the club members have been agents of a foreign government?