The Daily Telegraph

Foreign nation’s nuclear secrets found at Mar-a-lago

Document among several discovered at Trump’s estate that had special ‘need-to-know’ clearances

- By Josie Ensor and Nick Allen in Washington

‘If friendly countries believe it is no longer safe to work with us, we are in a much less secure position’

‘The judge’s opinion was wrong and I think the government should appeal. It is deeply flawed’

A HIGHLY classified document seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-alago estate reportedly detailed a foreign government’s nuclear capabiliti­es.

The secrets were said to be so sensitive only a handful of US national security officials knew of their existence.

The document was among some discovered at the former president’s Florida home that were so restricted even some of the Biden administra­tion’s most senior national security officials were not authorised to review them, The Washington Post reported.

Only the president and cabinet, or near-cabinet level officials, would have been able to authorise other members of the government to access them. And such documents require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, rather than a generic “top secret” clearance.

The document about the foreign nation reportedly described its military defences, including its ability to attack with nuclear weapons and defend against them.

It was unclear which country it referred to, and whether that nation was a friend or foe. But outside the US the only countries confirmed to have nuclear weapons are Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel has never officially confirmed it has nuclear weapons but is widely suspected to possess them. In 2019, the US, under Mr Trump’s presidency, approved authorisat­ions by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia.

There were no details on precisely where at Mar-a-lago the highly sensitive material was found, or what security measures it was protected by. In addition to being Mr Trump’s home, Mar-a-lago is a private members club.

The former president is facing mounting legal pressure and the Justice Department has said top secret documents were “likely concealed” to obstruct an FBI investigat­ion into potential mishandlin­g of classified materials.

When FBI agents searched Mar-alago on Aug 8, they found more than 100 classified documents, including several in Mr Trump’s office.

Shawn Turner, former director of communicat­ions for US National Intelligen­ce, said: “What you walk away with is a clear and resounding understand­ing that under no circumstan­ces should these documents have ever been stored in various places at a country club in Florida.”

Joyce Alene, a former US prosecutor, said: “Trump’s damage to our national security includes relationsh­ip damage with friendly countries we work with and rely on to gather intelligen­ce.

“If they believe it’s no longer safe to work with us, we are in a much less secure position,”

Before the FBI raid, Mr Trump and his team had handed back 15 boxes, including 184 documents marked as confidenti­al, secret or top secret, to the National Archives, where presidenti­al records are supposed to be kept after an administra­tion ends.

Mr Trump has said that, as president, he declassifi­ed documents that were later found at Mar-a-lago, and claims the search of his home was politicall­y motivated.

In the wake of the latest reporting about the nuclear document, Christophe­r Kise, a lawyer for Mr Trump, criticised “the selective leak of unverifiab­le and misleading informatio­n”.

He said: “[Leaks] continue with no respect for the process nor any regard for the real truth.

“This does not serve well the interests of justice.

“Moreover, the damage to public confidence in the integrity of the system simply cannot be underestim­ated.

The responsibl­e course of action here would be for someone, anyone, in the government to exercise leadership and control.”

Mr Kise said there should be a “rational solution to document storage issues which have needlessly spiralled out of control”.

On Monday, a judge agreed to Mr Trump’s request to appoint an independen­t expert, known as a “special master”, to review records seized by the FBI to see if they were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

The move was expected to delay the FBI investigat­ion into his handling of the documents.

Bill Barr, who served as Attorney General during the Trump presidency, criticised the decision to allow a special master. He said: “The [ judge’s] opinion, I think, was wrong, and I think the government should appeal. It is deeply flawed in a number of ways.’

Mr Barr added: “I don’t see it fundamenta­lly changing the trajectory.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom