McCain, White House clash over ‘grossly irresponsible’ national security leaks

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainGraham: There are 'no good choices left' with North Korea Graham: North Korea shouldn't underestimate Trump Give Trump the silent treatment MORE (R-Ariz.) went off on the White House Wednesday after press secretary Jay Carney said it was “grossly irresponsible” to accuse the Obama administration of using recent national security leaks for political gain.

“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” Carney told reporters en route to California on Wednesday when asked about McCain’s comments.

McCain, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, responded Wednesday with a lengthy statement using Carney’s “grossly irresponsible” line four times against the Obama administration as he repeated his accusations about the national security leaks.

“The White House today claimed that my criticism of the administration’s involvement in, and culpability for, leaks of sensitive and classified information is ‘grossly irresponsible,’ ” McCain said. “No, what is grossly irresponsible is U.S. officials divulging some of the most highly classified programs involving the most important national security priorities facing our nation today,” he said.

McCain and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissGOP hopefuls crowd Georgia special race Democrats go for broke in race for Tom Price's seat Spicer: Trump will 'help the team' if needed in Georgia special election MORE (R-Ga.) called for appointment of a special counsel to investigate leaks of recent stories in The New York Times that detailed U.S. cyberattacks on Iran and a terrorist “kill list.”

McCain also said Tuesday that Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinFor the sake of American taxpayers, companies must pay their fair share What the Iran-Contra investigation can teach us about Russia probe Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral MORE (D-Mich.) has agreed to hold hearings on the national security leaks.

On Wednesday morning, McCain upped the ante on his charges when he said on "CBS This Morning" that the leaks came from “the highest levels at the White House.”

There were also reports Tuesday that the FBI has opened an investigation into the Iran cyberattack leak.

The White House has denied that any of the recent leaks were authorized, but Carney’s comments Wednesday were the strongest rebuttal yet of the charges that McCain has made since the Times story was published Friday.

Democrats have raised concerns about the leaks as well, but they have rejected McCain’s charges that politics were involved with the disclosures.