News that U.S. President Donald Trump turned his private oceanfront club Mar-a-Lago into an "open air situation room" complete with threats of nuclear attack has sparked widespread concern over what one described as Trump's "disdainful middle finger toward national security."
First reported by CNN late Sunday and amplified by the Washington Post on Monday, Trump was dining with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the terrace of Mar-a-Lago on Saturday when the leaders received news that North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
Surrounded by other wealthy residents of the exclusive club, some of whom quickly posted pictures of the scene on Facebook, "Trump and Abe's evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners," CNN reported.
The reporting continued:
Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon left their seats to huddle closer to Trump as documents were produced and phone calls were placed to officials in Washington and Tokyo.
The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents.
Even as a flurry of advisers and translators descended upon the table carrying papers and phones for their bosses to consult, dinner itself proceeded apace. Waiters cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting with aides.
Weighing in, security experts told the Washington Post on Monday that it would have been relatively easy to conversation to hack into.
"Phones—especially phones with their flashes turned on for improved visibility—are portable television satellite trucks and, if compromised, can be used to get a great deal of information about what's happening nearby, unless precautions are taken," noted the Post's Philip Bump. Clearly in this case, "Precautions weren't taken."
As others pointed out, the individuals that "cleared the wedge salads" were also privy to the high-level talks.
The GOP yelled about email security for years. There are currently waiters at Mar-a-Lago who know more about N. Korea than the Joint Chiefs.
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) February 13, 2017
How many of our enemies are now trying to turn a waiter or two at Mar-A-Lago? Trump can't pay that well, so nice bonus. https://t.co/Gws5Ys0vbF
— Don Mitchell (@DonMedia) February 13, 2017
In a separate report on Monday, Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold spoke with Mar-a-Lago resident Richard DeAgazio, who had posted images of the Trump and Abe "pow-wow" on his now-deleted Facebook page late Saturday, who described the scene in detail.
What's more, Fahrenthold pointed out that "DeAgazio also posted photos of himself with a man that he identified as the military member who carries the 'football' that would allow Trump to launch a nuclear attack," prompting concerned responses from anti-nuclear organizations.
— ReThink Defense (@ReThinkDefense) February 13, 2017
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) February 13, 2017
Taken together, Bump wrote, the scene
runs contrary to the arguments Trump made on the campaign trail. While running for the presidency, cybersecurity and the risk of compromise were cardinal sins, necessitating that he be given the most powerful position in America. Now that he's attained that position, though, his attitude toward security seems a bit more lax.
Or as the pro-democracy organizer Common Cause put it, "Not only is Trump spending taxpayer $ at his business, he is putting our national security at risk while doing it."