An empty folder marked “Classified” and a Situation Room brochure on display at a Trump Tower bar further expose Donald Trump’s “contemptuous” attitude toward the law and U.S. security issues, charged the leader of a national watchdog organization.
“It’s a really cavalier approach to a serious national security system and issues,” Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told HuffPost on Friday. “It shouldn’t be treated lightly. There’s a reason this is taken very seriously.”
The display in the former president’s building underscores his “contemptuous attitude” about the national security system and his belief that he “doesn’t have to follow the rules,” Bookbinder said.
The folder marked “Classified” on a red banner with the presidential seal and an “Evening Summary” label has been on display for several months behind glass in the 45 Wine and Whiskey Bar in the lobby of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. The display also includes several huge photos of Trump and copies of letters and notes to and from the former president.
Next to the “Classified” folder is a “Situation Room” brochure marked “unclassified FOUO,” meaning “for official use only.”
Former FBI official Peter Strzok pointed out that even though the brochure is unclassified, federal rules regulate the handling of papers marked “for official use only.” The bar “sure isn’t an 'official use,’” Strzok noted.
FOUO information “should be handled in a manner that provides assurances that unauthorized persons do not gain access,” according to federal guidelines.
The folder and brochure weren’t removed even after the FBI last month seized several boxes of White House documents, including classified and top secret files, from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
It’s uncertain if the Trump Tower display is authentic or original, though the brochure in particular appears worn as if it’s been used. The FBI declined to comment in response to a query from HuffPost concerning the display. The bartender said she was unaware of the history of the folder and brochure, and the Trump Organization could not immediately be reached for comment.
If authentic, the folder would be the first widely known “Classified” folder on a Trump property outside of Mar-a-Lago.
Some Trump critics have speculated that White House documents meant to be under the control of the National Archives could be hidden away at a number of Trump properties. A video has been circulating on social media apparently showing boxes similar to those seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago being moved in May to Trump’s golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Besides raising national security concerns (Bookbinder said he wonders what happened to any papers that might have been inside the folder), Trump is also once again using the presidential seal, which is on the folder, to promote his business.
“Use of the presidential seal to promote an establishment is illegal,” Bookbinder stated. “It’s never been OK, it’s still not OK.” CREW has filed complaints about Trump’s repeated use of the seal to promote his golf courses.
Last week, a couple who walked into the open lobby bar to look at the folder in the display were forcefully escorted out by a security guard, who told them they would have to “order food” if they wanted to look at the folder.
The folder and brochure have been on display at the bar at least since early this year. The New York Times wrote a story in February about how Trump was profiting from his presidency, and the display can be seen in a photo in the article.
Last month, after the FBI seized documents from Mar-a-Lago, political pranksters The Good Liars posted a photo of themselves sitting in front of the display. Several people responding on Twitter were uncertain if it was a joke with a tricked-out photo.