Obama adviser: GOP using leaks as ‘distraction’ from important issues

A senior White House adviser called continued discussions of the recent national security leaks “distractions” Sunday.

“An investigation’s been announced,” Obama adviser David Plouffe said on Fox News Sunday. 

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"Let that investigation proceed, rather than turning into this in a some game of distraction, because what we really need to focus on here is we have to fight against al Qaeda, we have to continue the progress we made," he added. "We also have to turn our attention as forcefully as we can to the economy and creating jobs."

Plouffe accused Republicans of using the incident to publicly damage the president and said the public should focus on important issues such as the economy and allow the investigation to unfold.

He assured the cooperation of the White House, saying “everyone is going to participate,” but declined to comment how the president would specifically respond to investigators. 


Plouffe emphasized that “the president wants this investigation to be as thorough as possible.” 

“Two United States attorneys will turn every rock here,” he told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace.

When pressed by Wallace if the president should have backed a special counsel instead of U.S. attorneys, Plouffe emphasized that one of the attorneys is a “Bush appointee and the president takes the investigation very seriously.”

Plouffe also spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday about the leaks, noting that the author of a book discussing the leaked information had said that it “didn’t come from the White House.” 

But Plouffe also declined to comment specifically on whether anyone at the White House had leaked information on the president’s “kill list,” cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities or the presence of an al-Qaeda mole.

“I’m not going to speak specifically about classified information,” he said.

Earlier this month, leaks detailing a U.S. cyber attack against Iran’s nuclear program and President Obama’s “kill list” targeting al Qaeda operatives formed the basis for stories in The New York Times.

The reports sparked congressional anger over the national security leaks.

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate the matter, but Republicans, many of whom have alleged the leaks may have been made to bolster Obama's foreign policy credentials have called for a special counsel. 

Senate Democrats last week blocked a resolution introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would have forced Holder to appoint outside special counsel.

While Democrats have expressed outrage over the leaks, they have dismissed suggestions they were made to politically aid the president.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who appeared on Fox encouraged the administration to use a special counsel to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Special counsels “were created to handle situations exactly like this,” he said.

“[I]t would remove any appearance that anyone in the administration was trying to influence the investigation,” Lieberman explained.

Lieberman also said he thought the president should sit down with investigators.

Lieberman was joined on Fox by former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden, who agreed with the senator that the national security leaks were serious breaches and should be investigated in a thorough manner. Lieberman said that national security leaks were not a new problem, but expressed concern that these leaks were more damaging than others in the past.

“For information to be highly classified, there was a [decision] made that it could cause... exceptional damage,” Lieberman said, adding that individuals speaking on anonymity in several articles about highly classified materials is “acknowledgement of a crime, in my opinion.”

Hayden emphasized on Fox that these leaks could be harmful regardless of their veracity. “These don’t have to be true to be harmful,” Hayden said on Sunday.

Ben Geman contributed to this report.