Society

Trump Vows Action Against 'Low-Life Leakers'

| by Robert Fowler

President Donald Trump has called for the rooting out of leakers from his administration following the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn. While Democratic lawmakers have urged for an investigation into Flynn's phone calls with a Russian ambassador, their GOP colleagues have instead moved toward probing who is leaking from the Trump White House.

On Feb. 16, Trump took to social media to blast the leaks emerging from his administration to journalistic outlets, The Huffington Post reports.

"Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. ... The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers!" Trump tweeted out. "They will be caught!"

Trump has tapped private equity executive Stephen Feinberg to conduct an overview of the intelligence community to determine who may be leaking to the press.

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Flynn had several phone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. While the former national security adviser had told Vice President Mike Pence that current U.S. sanctions had not been discussed during his communication with Kislyak, nine officials from the intelligence community told The Washington Post that this was not true.

The revelation that Flynn had misled Pence led to his resignation on Feb. 13. White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Flynn had been let go due to his breach in trust.

"The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation in a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for Gen. Flynn's resignation," Spicer said, according to NPR.

On Feb. 16, Trump indicated that his ire was not pointed toward Flynn but both the media and leakers from his White House.

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"It's a criminal action, criminal act, and it's been going on for a long time before me, but now it's really going on," Trump said of administration leaks during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The New York Times reports.

The president asserted that Flynn had been "treated very, very unfairly by the media."

Following another report that members of the Trump campaign had been in constant communication with Russian intelligence during the 2016 presidential race, Democrats have called for an investigation into Flynn's activities to determine the full extent of the White House's ties to Russia.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, has asked the inspector general of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate who had leaked the information that lead to Flynn's downfall.

"We have serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information here," Chaffetz wrote in a letter to the DOJ.

The ranking member of the Oversight Committee, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, blasted Chaffetz's request.

"Congress should be doing independent oversight of the Executive Branch and protecting whistleblowers, not running interference while the White House conceals their abuses and misleads the American people for weeks," Cummings said.

Since Trump's election in November 2016, news outlets have been purchasing encryption platforms at a rapid rate to help procure and protect leaked information from the White House.

Executive director Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation noted that his organization's tool, SecureDrop, has been selling like hotcakes in the new Trump era.

"It's hard to name a news organization that has not gotten in touch with us about installing SecureDrop in the past six weeks," Timm told CNBC on Feb. 9.

The proliferation of new encryption software coupled with an unknown number of leakers from the White House and intelligence community helped prompt Flynn's resignation. In Timm's view, the damage from leaks won't stop there for the Trump administration.

"I don't think it's impossible that a combination of leaks, and whistleblowers and investigative journalism eventually lead to the downfall of Trump," Timm said.

Sources: CNBCThe Huffington Post, The New York Times, NPRThe Washington Post / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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