In recent weeks, much of the discussion surrounding Donald Trump, Mar-a-Lago, and the materials the former president took has focused on legal and political questions. That’s not surprising: Many of the key questions relate to the criminal investigation into the Republican’s alleged misconduct.
But there’s a related question that’s every bit as important: Did Trump’s recklessness undermine U.S. national security? If so, how much damage was, or could’ve been, done?
Soon after the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at the former president’s glorified country club, two leading congressional Democrats — House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney — requested a security damage assessment. The Senate Intelligence Committee made a related request.
It appears the lawmakers’ inquiry did not go unnoticed. NBC News reported:
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said her office will lead a damage assessment of the documents that were removed from former President Donald Trump Mar-a-Lago home, in a letter to congressional lawmakers, obtained by NBC News Saturday. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, which oversees the CIA, the National Security Agency and 16 other agencies, will “lead an Intelligence Community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of the relevant documents,” Haines wrote in the letter, dated Friday.
It’s worth emphasizing that we’re talking about two separate but related things. First, the intelligence community is prepared to review the classified nature of the materials that Trump improperly took, and second, the same office is assessing possible damage to our national security from what the Republican took.
The classification review will involve reviewing the materials recovered from Mar-a-Lago and determining whether they’ve been properly classified. (Sometimes, as circumstances change, materials are reclassified at different levels.)
But the damage assessment is arguably more interesting, since it involves scrutinizing intelligence to see how much harm could be caused if the relevant materials were to fall into the wrong hands. What’s more, intelligence officials will be examining who might’ve had access to the classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, and who might be in danger as a result of the former president’s alleged negligence.
So, the good news is that all of this important work is getting underway. The bad news is that we’re unlikely to hear about the findings, at least anytime soon.
On Monday night, Rachel talked to Mary McCord, who, among other things, helped oversee national security matters at the Justice Department in the Obama administration. Asked about the ultimate findings of this process, McCord explained, “I would expect that these intelligence reviews will themselves be classified.”
In other words, the congressional intelligence committees will learn the details of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence damage assessment. We probably won’t.
But — and this is important — there’s also a law enforcement dimension to this. McCord added that the review could also be “pertinent to any criminal investigation” and will “help inform the Department of Justice.”
Watch this space.