WASHINGTON ― House Democrats are asking three federal agencies to explain the security measures implemented at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida to screen members, visitors and employees.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) sent three separate letters on Friday to the FBI, the Secret Service and the Department of Labor asking each agency to explain how they are handling security at the club that the president has visited in three of his first four weekends in office. The letters were signed by 32 House Democrats.
The letters come one week after Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were photographed by Mar-a-Lago members while reviewing intelligence reports on the club’s public patio during a sensitive discussion about a missile test-fired by North Korea.
The White House has since stated that they did use a sensitive compartmented information facility on site to review intelligence documents. Security procedures for the review of members, their guests and the club’s employees, however, have not been revealed.
That night there were dozens of club members on hand sitting mere feet away from the president. Many sat with guests, who had not paid the $200,000 initiation fee. There was also a wedding party in one of the club’s banquet halls, which the president popped into and gave an impromptu speech. (The groom’s father was a donor to the president’s campaign.)
“If it is just a high price of admission and anybody can come in it’s important for us to know who those people are,” Clark told The Huffington Post. “They have unusual proximity to our president and they apparently under this president are going to have close proximity to high security information and potentially classified information.”
The letters to both FBI director James Comey and Secret Service director Joseph Clancy asks whether their respective agencies are conducting the same background checks of members and their guests that are required of visitors to the White House.
In addition, the letter asks if there are any foreign workers employed at Mar-a-Lago from countries that could pose a counterintelligence risk.
Questions about Mar-a-Lago’s foreign workforce arise from the club’s routine request for foreign worker permits from the Labor Department. In August 2016, the department approved H-2B foreign worker permits for Mar-a-Lago to hire 30 foreign waitresses, 19 foreign cooks and 15 foreign housekeepers to work from October 2016 through May 2017.
The letter to acting Secretary of Labor Edward Hugler asks whether the agency conducted any vetting of foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago to determine if they could pose a national security risk. The letter also requests the department to state if any of the club’s foreign work permits went to Russian nationals.
House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent a letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Tuesday asking for a detailed explanation of the security measures taken at Mar-a-Lago including whether members, guests and employees have been vetted.
Concerns about security measures at Mar-a-Lago are just one of many issues with the club. Unlike every other president in modern history, Trump did not divest or separate himself from his financial holdings in any meaningful way. He still owns Mar-a-Lago.
Every presidential visit to the club puts taxpayer money into his personal bank account. Costs that must be factored into presidential visits include lodging, food and security. The letters to the FBI and Secret Service ask how much the agencies are paying to ensure adequate security at the club for the president and his entourage.
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated Mar-a-Lago’s $200,000 fee as an annual membership fee. That is the initiation fee; annual membership dues are $14,000.