Trump Team Removed “Highly Sensitive” Documents From Secure Facility

Published May 9, 2017
Published May 9, 2017

The current administration's track record of mishandling classified information began as soon as Trump took office.

Trump Sensitive Documents Flynn

George Frey/Getty ImagesDonald Trump jokes with Gen. Michael Flynn on the campaign trail. Flynn was later found to have lied to the Trump administration about his conversations with Russia, which contributed to the Obama administration’s reluctance to share information with Trump’s transition team.

The Trump administration has had some issues keeping things private.

In the first few weeks of the new presidency, leaks from the Oval Office revealed unauthorized transcripts of phone calls between Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Australia, details about The Apprentice-style staging of the Supreme Court nominee announcement, and drafts of executive orders.

In February, Trump was even seen looking at classified information out in the open at Mar-a-Lago. At a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, Trump’s aides were using their phone flashlights to help the president view sensitive documents on a North Korean missile launch.

The Obama Administration apparently saw the first signs of this recklessness early on in the transition process.

White House officials became especially concerned, the Associated Press reports, when they learned that the Trump team was photocopying and removing “highly sensitive” documents from a secure room at their transition headquarters.

“Obama’s national security team decided to only allow the transition officials to view some information at the White House, including documents on the government’s contingency plans for crises,” Julie Pace, who compiled the report using interviews with 11 current and former U.S. officials, wrote.

And this limiting of access is just one indicator of the levels of mistrust between the two administrations.

Obama staffers also became suspicious, Pace reported, when Marshall Billingslea, a member of Trump’s transition team, asked for a copy of just one classified CIA profile: that of Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Billingslea apparently confided in Obama administrators that his boss, Michael Flynn, would be speaking to Kislyak. He worried Flynn might not fully understand the sensitive nature of the interaction.

This tip helped spark the initial probes into what is now a well-known and controversial scandal: Flynn having communication with Russian officials — in which he notified them of pending sanctions — and then lying to other White House officials about the nature of the interactions.

Former Attorney General Sally Yates revealed in testimony on May 8 that she had informed the Trump White House as early as January 26 that Flynn had lied and, because of that, was likely compromised in his dealings with Russia.

Trump, who kept Flynn on staff for 18 days after learning that he had lied about Russian ties, is now blaming Obama for Flynn’s inappropriate use of White House information, because it was the Obama administration who had initially granted Flynn his clearance as the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief.

“Flynn’s security clearance was a routine matter, done mainly to benefit the head of the DIA, and it did not rise to a political level,” The Washington Post clarified in response to Trump’s misleading Tweet (which leaves out the fact that Obama tried to dissuade Trump from nominating Michael Flynn). “So Trump and other White House officials are engaging in a distraction when they suggest that Obama failed to take action against Flynn.”

Next, learn why the senator leading the investigation on Trump’s Russian connections thinks that the president’s impeachment is likely. Then, read about the woman Obama proposed to before he met Michelle — and why she turned him down.