Uncertainty builds in Washington over White House leaks
Uncertainty and confusion appear to reign in Washington after a steady flow of leaks over the past week ranging from reports that senior White House adviser Jared Kushner tried to set up backchannel communications with Russia to the unauthorized release of information about the U.K.’s investigation into the Manchester attack.
Members of President Trump’s administration and Congress on Sunday were guarded on talk shows when speaking about the recent White House leaks, uncertain whether to believe recent reports but well aware of their ramifications if true.
Many indicated they would withhold judgement until the reports were fully investigated and pressed for investigators to do so.
The White House, which has been struggling with leaks since the president assumed office, has sent mixed signals about how it plans to handle them.
However, Trump also last week called for an investigation into “deeply troubling” leaks of sensitive intelligence, including the information leaked about the Manchester bombing.
He vowed his administration “will get to the bottom of this” because they “pose a grave threat to our national security.”
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Sunday said he’s not sure where the “outrageous” leaks related to the attack in Manchester, England, came from, but said if they came from the U.S., it is “totally unacceptable.”
“I don’t know where the leak came from,” he said. “And, if it came from the United States, it’s totally unacceptable.”
Kelly also had some strong words for the leakers themselves.
“I don’t know why people do these kind of things, but it’s borderline, if not over the line, of treason,” he said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“It jeopardizes not only investigations, but puts peoples’ lives in jeopardy. I don’t know why people do it but they do, and that’s the world we live in,” he continued during an appearance on on “Fox News Sunday.”
Kelly’s comments came after a string of intelligence disclosures that angered some key U.S. allies.
Police in Manchester said they would stop sharing information with their U.S. counterparts after photos appearing to show remnants from the bomb were published by The New York Times.
The name of the alleged bomber was also published in U.S. news outlets before it was officially announced by U.K. authorities.
He went on to dismiss concerns that the rumor, if true, was not “a good thing.”
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “You just have to assume, obviously, that what you’re getting is — may or may not be true.”
“There’s another question about his security clearance and whether he was forthcoming about his contacts on that,” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.”
“If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and didn’t reveal that, that’s a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of security clearance.”
But he stopped short of agreeing with critics who say Kushner’s security clearance should be revoked, instead noting the need to “get to the bottom” of the reports.
“Well I think we need to get to the bottom of these allegations but I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid, if not, the there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance,” Schiff said.
When asked, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Kushner appears willing to talk about the reports and answer questions, but declined to make his own assumptions.
“I think Jared has said that he’s more than willing to answer any and all questions. They reached out to us yesterday to make sure that we knew that was the case,” Corker told NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“And I’m sure he’s willing to do so.”
“And so I think I would just wait, sounds like he’s more than glad to talk about all of these things,” Corker said.
“And instead of getting wrapped up into a lot of hyperbole, as these things can sometimes do, I think talking with him directly and getting him to answer any and all questions as he said he would do would probably be the prudent course of action.”
Corker also said he has spent a lot of time with Kushner, and said he seems to be a “very open person.”
“And again I’d let him speak for himself when the time is right on all these issues and at that time we can actually render judgment on the reality of what did or didn’t take place,” he said.