Trump faces flak for holding crisis talks in public

Above: Mr Trump and Mr Abe at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, last Saturday, after North Korea's missile test. Below: Mr Abe huddling with his aides at the club. The social media posts, which said the two leaders conferred while in the pu
Above: Mr Trump and Mr Abe at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, last Saturday, after North Korea's missile test. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK PAGE OF RICHARD DEAGAZIO
Above: Mr Trump and Mr Abe at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, last Saturday, after North Korea's missile test. Below: Mr Abe huddling with his aides at the club. The social media posts, which said the two leaders conferred while in the pu
Above: Mr Abe huddling with his aides at the club. The social media posts, which said the two leaders conferred while in the public dining room, have been removed.PHOTOS: FACEBOOK PAGE OF RICHARD DEAGAZIO

WASHINGTON • Social media posts of US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe huddling with aides in a public dining room after North Korea's missile test raised questions on Monday about his administration's handling of sensitive information.

The conversation - which would ordinarily take place behind closed doors and be classified - was captured on camera from close range by a member of Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, last Saturday.

Facebook user Richard DeAgazio posted pictures of Mr Trump huddling with aides and Mr Abe, and taking calls. One caption of the now removed posts read: "The President receiving the news about the missile incident from North Korea on Japan with the Prime Minister sitting next to him."

Mr DeAgazio later wrote: "The Prime Minister Abe of Japan huddles with his staff and the President is on the phone with Washington, DC. The two world leaders then conferred and then went into another room for (a) hastily arranged press conference. Wow... the centre of the action!!!"

North Korea launched a new ballistic missile on Sunday, as it edged closer to marrying nuclear and missile technology that could deliver a devastating payload to the continental United States.

When the President is away from the White House, many crisis conversations take place in a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF.

The facilities are normally out of bounds for individuals without security clearance and common digital devices such as unsecured mobile phones.

The White House said Mr Trump was briefed in such a room "prior to dinner" and that no sensitive information was shared at the table.

"There is no one in that picture around him or whatever that isn't part of the US delegation or the Japanese delegation, they were reviewing the logistics for the press conference," said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. "The President was subsequently briefed again in a classified setting, after the dinner, before they went out and spoke."

But Democrats were fuming and quick to recall Mr Trump's criticism of 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server.

"There is no excuse for letting an international crisis play out in front of a bunch of country club members like dinner theatre," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Trump faces flak for holding crisis talks in public'. Print Edition | Subscribe