A senior White House aide is deliberately feeding inaccurate stories to White House staffers in an effort to weed out those who are speaking to reporters, according to a New York Times report on Sunday.
Amid an ongoing battle with leaks of internal meetings and memos, President Donald Trump has reportedly remained fixated on determining who is passing information on to the press, the report said.
Trump’s obsession with identifying leakers has grown so much that when he’s speaking with outside advisers on the phone and a staffer’s name comes up, Trump will ask, “Is he the leaker? Is she the leaker?” according to The Times.
Trump has publicly condemned the leaks that have come out of his administration and has reportedly made staffers sign nondisclosure agreements that extend beyond his presidency.
“Leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” Trump said in a tweet last month.
Special assistant Kelly Sadler left the White House last week almost a month after an insensitive comment she made about Arizona Senator John McCain was leaked to the The Hill. After McCain, who has brain cancer, criticized Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Sadler reportedly joked in a private meeting with communications staff that “he’s dying anyway.”
Sadler remained in the White House for weeks amid pressure to resign, and reportedly blamed her boss Mercedes Schlapp for the leak in a meeting with Trump.
The White House did not deny the comment or issue an apology, although Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly berated White House communications staff over the leaked meeting, telling them she was more upset that the press found out about it than she was with the comment itself.
Frustrated with the persistent leaks, Sanders reportedly told staffers, “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too, and that’s just disgusting.” Sure enough, five staffers shared details of the meeting with the news website Axios shortly after.
Sanders also later condemned leaks as “shameful behavior” by “a few bad actors” during an appearance on Fox & Friends.
Special Counsel to the President Kellyanne Conway said during an Fox News interview she expects personnel changes as part of the administration’s battle with leaks, which she said are frustrated staffers’ ways of “using the media to shiv each other.”
White House officials ramped up their efforts to cut down on leaks by conducting sweeps of personal devices in the West Wing after Chief of Staff John Kelly introduced a personal cell phone ban in January.
BY: Ellen Cranley