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Trump briefed on North Korea as Mar-a-Lago guests, waiters looked on

They posted photos of the briefing on Facebook.


Amrita Khalid


Posted on Feb 13, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 12:21 am CDT

Guests of President Donald Trump‘s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida have posted photos of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe receiving a security brief in plain sight, raising concerns that people without security clearance saw or overheard classified information.

The two leaders were at dinner on Saturday evening when aides informed them of North Korea’s launch of a new ballistic missile, which landed in international waters near Japan. 

CNN reported that that the two leaders then met on a public terrace with a bevy of aides from both countries, including National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon. The group was in full view of guests at the Mar-a-Lago. Many took photos that later appeared on social media. As CNN reported, waiters “cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting with aides.”

One guest, Richard DeAgazio, took photos of the scene and posted them on Facebook. The post have since been removed from DeAgazio’s account, but screenshots of the post remain on social media. 

It’s unknown whether Trump and Abe’s decision to hold a meeting in such a public environment in full view of guests and resort staff without top-secret security clearances posed a risk to national security. 

DeAgazio also posed with the U.S. Marine tasked with carrying Trump’s “nuclear suitcase.” The so-called “nuclear football” has followed around every president since John F. Kennedy and enables the president to launch a nuclear attack from outside the White House. It also allows the president to communicate with the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon and contains the nuclear codes needed to launch a nuclear attack anywhere in the world.

And merely identifying the briefcase or the officer tasked with guarding it is not a risk in itself. The nuclear briefcase has been photographed many times. 

John Noonan, a Minuteman III nuclear launch officer under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, posted a photo from Reagan’s state visit to the Soviet Union in 1988, where you can plainly see the officer holding the nuclear briefcase on the Red Square in Moscow.

Carelessness in matters of national security isn’t just Trumpian. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both on separate occasions misplaced the “nuclear biscuit”, a laminated card with the nuclear codes intended to remain on the Leader of the Free World’s person at all times. The aide in charge of the nuclear briefcase was separated from President Ronald Reagan for several hours during an assassination attempt in 1981. Regan’s nuclear codes were later found in a hospital plastic bag.

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*First Published: Feb 13, 2017, 3:07 pm CST