President Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on Wednesday insisted the president did not authorize anyone at the White House to leak the classified national-security information that has led to congressional anger and a Justice Department probe.
“I can tell you that the president of the United States did not leak classified information, as Mitt Romney suggested yesterday, and he didn’t authorize the leak of information, as Mitt Romney suggested yesterday,” Axelrod told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."
Axelrod's statements are a shift from previous remarks where he denied that the leaks originated from anyone at the White House. "There were obvious leaks, but they weren't from the White House," he said in an interview in June.
Republicans have seized on comments from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who suggested Monday that some of the classified leaks were coming from inside the White House.
“The White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks,” Feinstein said during an address at the World Affairs Council.
Feinstein walked back her comments on Tuesday, saying she regretted that her remarks “are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national-security secrets,” after Romney seized on the remarks in his address to the VFW. Feinstein added that she knows “for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks.”
Axelrod on Wednesday pointed to Feinstein’s reversal as he sought to play down the controversy and call for the investigation to proceed.
“You know that Sen. Feinstein said yesterday that she actually has no knowledge of where these leaks came from, so she rolled back what she said on Monday,” Axelrod continued. “It’s also true that the authors of the two main books that are in question here both said the White House was not the source of the leaks.”
The intelligence leaks formed the basis for reports in the media that detailed the administration’s terrorist “kill list” and a cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Axelrod said “strong signals have been sent” that leaks will not be tolerated, and said two U.S. attorneys and the Department of Justice will “get to the bottom of whatever happened.”
“The president will never, ever authorize the release of classified information, nor will he jeopardize the safety of the men and women whose safety he is responsible for as commander in chief,” Axelrod said.
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two U.S. attorneys to probe the matter. However, many Republican lawmakers have pressed for a special counsel, arguing that the DOJ investigation will not be independent. Democrats have rejected the push for an independent counsel.
Romney’s call for an special counsel on Tuesday marked the first time he has joined GOP lawmakers in pushing for an independent probe.