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House Democratic chairs request federal intelligence damage assessment after classified docs seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

<i>Steve Helber/AP</i><br/>This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate
AP
Steve Helber/AP
This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate

By Sara Murray, Zachary Cohen, Katelyn Polantz and Daniella Diaz, CNN

The Democratic chairs of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees have asked federal intelligence leadership for a congressional briefing and damage assessment after the FBI seized 11 sets of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home earlier this week.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney requested that Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence (DNI), conduct an immediate review following the extraordinary search of a former president’s home, according to a letter dated Saturday that was obtained by CNN. The DNI oversees the intelligence community in the executive branch.

“If this report is true, it is hard to overstate the national security danger that could emanate from the reckless decision to remove and retain this material,” Maloney of New York and Schiff of California wrote.

Schiff said on Sunday that he hasn’t yet received a response to the letter, telling CBS that he is “confident we will get one and I’m confident the intelligence community will do a damage assessment that is, I think, fairly routine when there has been the potential risk of disclosure of national security information or classified information.”

The FBI on Monday executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, with agents removing 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were marked as “top secret/SCI” — one of the highest levels of classification.

Court documents unsealed and released on Friday identify three federal crimes that the Department of Justice is looking at as part of its investigation: violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. The inclusion of the crimes indicated the department had probable cause to investigate those offenses as it was gathering evidence in the search. No one has been charged with a crime.

The letter outlined the House chairs’ specific requests, including to “instruct the National Counterintelligence Executive, in consultation with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community and other Inspectors General as appropriate, to conduct a damage assessment.”

The letter continued: “In addition, we ask that you commit to providing an appropriate classified briefing on the conduct of the damage assessment as soon as possible. Even as the Justice Department’s investigation proceeds, ensuring that we take all necessary steps to protect classified information and mitigate the damage to national security done by its compromise is critically important.”

Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday defended Trump and called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to testify before the committee about the search.

“We don’t know what they are,” he told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “State of the Union,” referring to the exact contents of the materials collected during the search. “We don’t know if they rise to the level of being a national security threat.” The congressman went on to note that the documents were two years old and suggested the material might not be worthy of classification.

CNN reported earlier Saturday that one of Trump’s attorneys signed a letter in June asserting that there was no more classified information stored at Mar-a-Lago, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The letter signed by the attorney raises fresh questions about the number of people who may have legal exposure in the ongoing investigation into the handling of classified materials from Trump’s time in the White House.

Before the FBI search warrant used at Mar-a-Lago was revealed Friday, Schiff lauded Garland’s request to unseal it, and Trump’s legal team ultimately agreed to its release. Schiff also said the House Intelligence Committee would decide whether it would investigate the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago.

“Hopefully (the unsealing) will give the public a sense of why the Justice Department made the decision they did. I have great confidence that Garland considered all of the factors in making the decision,” he said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misquoted the letter from Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. It also has been updated with additional background information.

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CNN’S Marshall Cohen, Rachel Janfaza, Morgan Rimmer, Alex Rogers and Kit Maher contributed to this report.

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