Administration

Trump blasts White House leakers as 'traitors'

President Trump blasted so-called White House "leakers" as "traitors" and vowed to hunt them down, even as he denied the West Wing has a problem with leaks.

"The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible," Trump tweeted Monday afternoon.

  

The president, however, indicated an investigation is underway into who in the White House is sharing information with the press.

"With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!" he wrote. 

The comments come days after The Hill first reported that White House aide Kelly Sadler made off-color comments about Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) cancer diagnosis.

Sadler said during an internal meeting that McCain's opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel "doesn't matter" because "he's dying anyway," according to sources familiar with her comments.

The White House has refused to offer a public apology for the remarks and Trump's response is almost certain to further fuel the controversy surrounding them.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of McCain's family ramped up their calls for Sadler to apologize publicly for her comments.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters Monday "an apology is appropriate ... from the person who said that really dumb thing."

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate's No. 3 Republican, criticized the White House's response, saying it has worsened the situation. 

"It's just a really unfortunate circumstance," Thune said. "Obviously what was said was very wrong and inappropriate. It would have been a lot easier if they had just nipped it right away ... Now it's [dragged] on for five days."

White House spokesman Raj Shah suggested no apology would be forthcoming, saying the matter is "being addressed internally."

Shah and the communications staff have focused more on how Sadler's comments became public than on the nature of the remarks themselves - a concern echoed by Trump.

"If you aren't able, in internal meetings, to speak your mind or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you, that creates a very difficult work environment," Shah said.

Trump weighed in on the news reports minutes before he took off in Marine One to visit first lady Melania Trump at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where she underwent a kidney procedure earlier in the day

Jordain Carney contributed. Updated at 5:43 p.m. 

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