Update: House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) just announced a preliminary probe into Trump's discussion of potentially sensitive information in public at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.
"Discussions with foreign leaders regarding international missile tests, and documents used to support those discussions are presumptively sensitive," Chaffetz said in a statement. "While the president is always on duty and cannot dictate the timing of when he needs to receive sensitive information about urgent matters, we hope the White House will cooperate in providing the Committee with additional information."
The below post is from Monday:
Republicans got religion on information security during the 2016 campaign. But will they apply the same scrutiny to President Trump as they did to candidate Hillary Clinton and her email server?
As The Post's Philip Bump notes, there are now several examples of Trump playing fast-and-loose with potentially sensitive information — the latest being the “open-air situation room” he conducted with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, which David Fahrenthold details here. Trump has also left a key to classified information out in a secured bag as people without the proper security clearance were in the Oval Office. And then there's the viewing of documents at Mar-a-Lago using cellphone flashlights, which Bump notes can be used like “portable television satellite trucks” when they are compromised.
It's not clear whether any of it actually provided sensitive or classified information to people who shouldn't have seen or heard it, but there does seem to be a pretty casual attitude toward this stuff and at least a case to be made that this behavior is negligent. And that's pretty much exactly what Republicans warned against with Clinton.
At the time, Republicans highlighted FBI Director James B. Comey's statement that Clinton's handling of sensitive information was “extremely careless.” Though Comey recommended against criminal charges, he said individuals who did what she did would often be “subject to security or administrative sanctions.”
Republicans pounced, with some arguing that Clinton shouldn't be provided the intelligence briefings usually given to presidential nominees.
Leading that charge was House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who wrote in The Washington Post in July:
The consequences for the safety of our nation are grave. Clinton’s actions may have allowed our enemies to access intelligence vital to our national security. The FBI found that hostile actors could very well have gained access to classified information sent and received by Clinton, her staff and their contacts.
Individuals who are "extremely careless" with classified information should be denied further access to such info. pic.twitter.com/0C76Ae95LD
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) July 7, 2016
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said “it's impossible to see how Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. can believe Clinton or any of her implicated staffers should ever again be provided access to classified information.”
The most outspoken critics of Clinton included Trump's now-CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who was then a congressman from Kansas. “We can't run the risk of more intelligence that puts Americans at risk of being exposed,” Pompeo said on his Facebook page. (The post and a tweet to that effect have been deleted by Pompeo, though it's not clear when.)
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) also focused on Clinton's “reckless” behavior. “It is already outrageous that our secretary of state was ‘extremely careless’ with classified information during her service and recklessly put our national security at risk,” he said. “It is equally shameful and dangerous that this individual is now seeking to occupy the world's most powerful office, the American presidency.”
No two situations are completely analogous. We know, for instance, that classified information did cross Clinton's server. It's not so clear that classified information was discussed out in the open at Mar-a-Lago or that classified documents were illuminated by those cellphone flashlights.
Republicans would also point out that Clinton took great pains to set up her email server in a certain way. Ryan said at the time that “her actions do not seem careless at all. In fact, Clinton’s actions seem quite careful — careful to place her own interests before our national security.” There is no such evidence of deliberateness when it comes to what Trump's doing.
And then there's the matter of Trump being the president. You can't really call for a president to be deprived of his intelligence briefings. Ryan said in his op-ed that Clinton should be deprived of the briefings “absent the voting public’s explicit permission in November.” Trump was given that “explicit permission” Nov. 8.
But there is still no evidence that Clinton's email server ever resulted in classified documents falling into the wrong hands. It was always an argument based upon negligence and the possibility of what might have happened.
Which seems to be at least somewhat applicable to what we've seen in recent days with Trump.