In March 2017, Politico published one of the first reports on the unusual challenge presented by Trump’s regular visits to the club.
“While Trump’s private club in South Florida was transformed into a fortress of armed guards, military radar, bomb-sniffing dogs and metal-detection checkpoints,” said Darren Samuelsohn wrote“There are still notable weaknesses, namely the flow of guests who can enter the property without a background check.”
Because Trump runs a club on the property, members are allowed to explore the grounds with guests. It plays host to numerous events — political fundraisers, weddings, you name it — which offers a level of access otherwise unheard of for a presidential (or even post-presidency) residence.
In 2019, the dangers of the scenario were demonstrated when a Chinese national was arrested after gaining entry to the facility while in possession of multiple phones and other electronic devices. She made it to the reception area after bypassing security by saying she was going to the pool.
This situation has a new weight this week.
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As I’m sure you know, the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Monday and recovered a number of boxes of materials from the property. It was the latest leg in a protracted attempt to secure material Trump took with him when he left office, including what appeared to be classified documents. Among them, the Washington Post reported on Thursday evening, could have been those related to nuclear weapons.
Aside from learning more about the nature of what Trump allegedly possessed at Mar-a-Lago, the past few days of reporting has solidified our understanding of where the material was kept and how it was protected. Immediately following the search, Trump attorneys announced that material had been seized from three locations: Trump’s office above the ballroom, a bedroom, and a “storage area.”
This storage area has been described as a “basement” in some reports, but according to According to NewsNation reporter Brian Entin, it was actually “a storage room off an interior hallway near the pool.” The room measured approximately 10 feet by 6 feet and was lined with boxes. You can see the pool in the middle of the complex on the map below. (There is also another pool to the east next to the ocean.)
Apparently, this room had been the focus of investigators’ attention in the weeks before the FBI moved in. A Justice Department official allegedly visited the property and was shown the room in June; After this visit, the department recommended adding a lock for added security. That lock was added, a lawyer for Trump said — and then broken open when the FBI arrived on Monday.
But remember, we’re not just talking about a room near a pool in Trump’s house. We are talking about a space near a pool that is regularly used for events.
A quick look back on Instagram shows how often this area is the focus of public events at the facility. Here’s an example, a model posing next to the pool during an event.
And here’s Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who posed for a photo near the east end of the pool earlier this year after attending a screening of the movie “2000 Mules.”
One of the more interesting photos is this one, advertisement a luxury car event which took place in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. The buildings of Mar-a-Lago can be seen in the background – including a covered hallway lined with doors beneath palm trees.
The location of the warehouse searched by the FBI is still unclear. But it’s easy to see how problematic the storage of material in the general area around the pool could have been: it was a focus of activities in Mar-a-Lago’s day-to-day business.
In addition to requiring an additional lock on the storage room itself, the government has also subpoenaed surveillance footage, the New York Times reports reported“could have given officers insight into who was going in and out of the storage area.” This may have been an attempt to determine whether specific people entered the room — or it may simply have been to assess the level of risk involved caused by storing the material near publicly accessible areas.
Questions about Trump’s handling of classified information predated his presidency and quickly increased after his inauguration. There were – and are – many reasons to believe that Trump was less careful about protecting classified information than his predecessors in the White House or other elected officials. Then he left office and moved into a function room, allegedly with many secrets.
This week’s search, dubbed the nefarious actions of a devious “deep state” by Trump and his allies, may include a focus on something far less controversial: making sure some slightly tipsy dude rolled into Mar-a-Lago, to verify Ferrari’s 2023 models didn’t accidentally stumble across America’s nuclear vulnerabilities while looking for the bathroom.