The U.S. intelligence community will evaluate the potential national security risks stemming from former President Donald Trump’s possession of top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told top lawmakers.
In a letter obtained by POLITICO and dated Friday, Haines told House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that her office will lead an “assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of the relevant documents.”
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are working together to facilitate a classification review of relevant materials, including those recovered during the search,” Haines wrote, adding that the review will be conducted in a way that “does not unduly interfere with DOJ’s ongoing criminal investigation.”
The correspondence represents the Biden administration’s first known engagement with Congress on the issue of the ongoing investigation ensnaring the former president. Court documents unsealed in recent days have revealed that the Justice Department is investigating potential violations of the Presidential Records Act, the Espionage Act, and obstruction of justice.
It’s also the first known acknowledgment by the intelligence community of the potential harm caused by the missing documents, which prosecutors said Friday included human-source intelligence and information gathered from foreign intercepts. Top lawmakers have been clamoring for details about the substance of the documents since the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, but so far neither the intelligence committees nor congressional leaders part of the so-called Gang of Eight have been briefed.
Haines’ response came on the same day that a federal judge unsealed a redacted version of the affidavit that laid out the Justice Department’s justification for obtaining a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. The affidavit revealed that prosecutors believed Trump was holding a range of top-secret documents at his private residence, including some of the former president’s handwritten notes.
“We are pleased that in response to our inquiry, Director Haines has confirmed that the Intelligence Community and Department of Justice are assessing the damage caused by the improper storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago,” Schiff and Maloney said in a joint statement to POLITICO. “The DOJ affidavit, partially unsealed yesterday, affirms our grave concern that among the documents stored at Mar-a-Lago were those that could endanger human sources. It is critical that the IC move swiftly to assess and, if necessary, to mitigate the damage done — a process that should proceed in parallel with DOJ’s criminal investigation.”
The intelligence community’s review is likely to encompass whether any unauthorized individuals had access to the highly sensitive documents. The Justice Department previously raised alarms about the lax security of the records within Trump’s estate. That question could also bear on the criminal probe, as Justice Department counterintelligence investigators determine whether the highly classified records were compromised in any way.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked the intelligence community to conduct a damage assessment related to Trump’s handling of the documents, but the inquiry was bipartisan. The panel’s chair, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), and vice chair, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both signed onto the request.
In addition to informing Maloney and Schiff of her office’s intent to conduct a damage assessment, Haines sent a similar response to Warner and Rubio on Friday.
The Senate duo also asked the Justice Department to give the committee access to the specific documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago. A wider group of congressional leaders asked to see the documents, too.
In a statement earlier Saturday, Rubio noted that the Justice Department hasn’t yet responded to the committee’s letter, but made no reference to Haines’ response.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee is still waiting for information from the Department of Justice about the specific intelligence documents seized from Mar-a-Lago and what necessitated an unprecedented search warrant on President Trump’s residence,” Rubio said.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.
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