A timeline of Trump's information security controversies

·Senior Writer
·4-min read

When Donald Trump ran against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, he made her handling of emails a core tenet of his campaign, leading to “Lock her up” chants becoming a common refrain at his rallies.

Anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment was omnipresent at Trump rallies in 2016, like this one in Kinston, N.C.
Anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment was ever present at Trump rallies in 2016, like this one in Kinston, N.C. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Despite this focus on protecting confidential information, Trump often failed to do so during and after his presidency. Last week’s raid on his Florida home to retrieve documents reportedly tied to nuclear weapons was only the most recent and high-profile instance of Trump’s lax operational security and alleged failure to adhere to presidential archiving standards.

“In my administration, I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information,” Trump said in August 2016. While in office, he signed a law making the mishandling of classified information a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

May 2017: Russia and nuclear subs

Four months after Trump took office, the Washington Post reported that he had revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States. The Post said that the information had “been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government” and that the partner had not cleared the sharing of the information with Russia. An official familiar with the matter said Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

President Donald Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the White House in 2017.
President Donald Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., at the White House on May 10, 2017. (Russia Foreign Minister Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

That same month, a transcript circulated of an April 29 phone conversation in which Trump told Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, that the U.S. had two nuclear subs off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

“We have two submarines — the best in the world,” Trump said, according to the transcript. “We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.”

May 2018: Kushner clearance

Despite concern about his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s ties to foreign governments and investors, Trump reportedly ordered his chief of staff to give Kushner security clearance. The White House Counsel’s Office had initially recommended not giving Kushner — who had failed to disclose meeting with Russians on his initial questionnaire — the clearance but was overruled by Trump.

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, at a White House press briefing, Aug. 13, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

While Trump has consistently drawn attention to Hunter Biden’s international business dealings, he has been less interested in those of Kushner, which includes Qatar bailing Kushner Industries out of a struggling real estate investment in 666 Park Avenue in New York and $2 billion from Saudi Arabia to help with the startup of Kushner’s new wealth fund.

August 2019: Classified Iran image

Trump tweeted out a photo of a failed Iranian rocket launch that reportedly came from the president’s daily intelligence briefing.

"The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [Space Launch Vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran," Trump wrote in a tweet with the image. "I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One."

The image raised concern among intelligence experts that Trump had revealed previously undisclosed surveillance capabilities, with one satellite imagery analyst telling NPR that “his post included some pretty amazing capabilities that the public simply wasn’t privy to before this.”

January 2021: Missing call logs

Former President Donald Trump displayed on a screen during a hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee.
An image of former Trump shown on a screen during a hearing in July of the House Jan. 6 committee. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In March, the Washington Post reported that there was a seven-hour gap in the White House call logs during the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The House select committee investigating the events of that day was reportedly interested in whether Trump was using burner phones, the phones of aides or other back channels to avoid official logging of calls.

August 2022: Flushed documents

Prior to documents being seized at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, the New York Times and Axios published photos showing that he had torn up documents and flushed them down toilets. As part of the Presidential Records Act, U.S. presidents are required by law to preserve letters, emails and work documents and transfer them to the National Archives.

Photos showing torn pieces of paper in the bottom of toilets
Photos showing torn pieces of paper in the bottom of toilets. (Courtesy of New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman)

Trump had denied he’d done so in a February statement, writing, “Also, another fake story, that I flushed papers and documents down a White House toilet, is categorically untrue and simply made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book.”