WASHINGTON — Republicans offer numerous apologies to Donald Trump who keeps a wealth of highly classified documents in his Florida home.
But when asked if they would take home classified documents, GOP senators charged with overseeing the intelligence community — those who process extremely sensitive information on a daily basis — said they would never do so.
“Of course not,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told HuffPost on Wednesday.
“Obviously, they should not be left in a residence or anywhere unprotected,” added Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is also on the committee.
HuffPost asked almost every member of the panel the same question. No one said they brought home classified documents.
Senate Intelligence Committee reviews top secret information in a Sensitive compartmentalized information facility, a modest room in the basement of the US Capitol that is off-limits to anyone without security clearance. Electronics, including cell phones, aren’t allowed inside, and lawmakers aren’t allowed to take notes — measures designed to prevent enemies from spying.
“I can not stand it” [documents] House. I can’t bring them to my office. I have to read them in that room,” Senator Angus King (I-Maine) said of the security protocols involved in serving on the committee.
“If I did that, I wouldn’t have a job anymore,” he added.
Republicans have dismissed concerns over Trump’s handling of classified documents. Some have even suggested that the Justice Department and the FBI are lying — a very different approach to how they handled the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“We operate almost entirely on claims in court documents that have not been proven,” Rubio told reporters on Wednesday.
Cornyn said he didn’t understand why the FBI was issuing a search warrant at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort more than a year and a half after Trump left office. Trump has not been charged with committing a crime, but the administration has said the documents are under criminal investigation and that he may have obstructed justice by not cooperating with the FBI.
“We’re just trying to figure out what the hell is going on,” Cornyn said. “It’s unprecedented to have a search warrant executed on a former president’s home, and that’s not a precedent I’d like to repeat.”
The National Archives unveiled in February that it had obtained 15 boxes of records that Trump had not handed over when he left the White House and that even more material was missing, unlike the Presidential Records Act, which states that all official documents become public property at the end of a presidential statement term. The FBI recovered 30 boxes of material last month during its search for Trump’s Palm Beach estate, including some that allegedly contained nuclear secrets.
sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) suggested that it’s different for a sitting president since his home is his office. (He has previously said Trump should have turned in the documents at the end of his term.)
“Presidents have their secure documents in their office, the White House, so they have a different view of it,” Blunt said.
sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she “didn’t have the facilities to do this, nor the authority” to keep top secret information in her home. “That’s different from a president. I have no authority whatsoever to consider anything classified or unclassified,” she added.
Trump is no longer president but has claimed that he has somehow released classified material he had stored in his Mar-a-Lago residence, although neither he nor his lawyers said so in their response to Justice Department allegations in federal court.
The Presidential Records Act requires all official records to be handed over to the National Archives, not only classified records, but also U.S. archivist David Ferrerio told Congress in February that record officials specifically referred the case to the Justice Department because Trump had kept classified material.
Trump has sued the Justice Department over the Aug. 8 search, and Republicans in the House of Representatives have said they will investigate the department for investigating the former president regardless of whether he has broken any laws.
Democrats said Trump’s actions endangered U.S. intelligence by preserving top-secret information on his Florida estate.
“Missing classified material, they drill you right out the gate, is a crime,” Senator Martin Heinrich (DN.M.), another intelligence committee member, told HuffPost. “This is real stuff and has a direct impact on our resources. It puts people’s lives at risk.”
“If this was Hillary Clinton, they would demand prison terms,” he added of the Republicans.