Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) backtracked from her comments Monday that the White House was responsible for some of the national security leaks, saying she did not know the source of the leaks.
“I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information,” Feinstein said in the statement on Tuesday. “I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney seized on Feinstein’s remarks in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention Tuesday, accusing President Obama of not trying to find the source of the leaks until after the election.
“I’m on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets,” Feinstein said. “I know for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks. His administration has moved aggressively to appoint two independent U.S. attorneys. There is an investigation under way, and it is moving forward quickly."
Romney's campaign suggested Feinstein had succumbed to pressure from the White House and Obama's campaign.
In a statement, Team Romney compared Feinstein to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was criticized by Obama's team after he described an Obama campaign ad criticizing Romney's private equity background as "nauseating."
“It looks like President Obama has given Dianne Feinstein the Cory Booker treatment. Yesterday she was speaking candidly about the leaks originating from this White House. Today, she was forced to walk it back. As Governor Romney said today, we need a leader who will take responsibility and immediately halt these security breaches before more American lives are put in danger," said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams in a statement.
The probe Feinstein mentioned is being led by Attorney General Eric Holder, but Republicans have argued this investigation cannot be independent. They have called on Holder to appoint a special counsel.
Feinstein has opposed those calls, and warned they are a political distraction from getting to the bottom of the leaks.
“I know we are in a campaign season, but I hope the investigation proceeds without political accusation or interference from anyone,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein declined to comment beyond her statement when asked about Romney’s comments as she was entering a closed Intelligence Committee markup Tuesday.
On Monday, Feinstein told the World Affairs Council: "I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks."
The White House has repeatedly denied the leaks came from them.
— This story was updated at 4:29 p.m.