Trump blasts White House leakers as 'traitors'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' ACLU says planned national emergency declaration is 'clear abuse of presidential power' O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could MORE 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

  

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 McCainJohn Sidney McCainMark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona MORE’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 CornynJohn CornynGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration On The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency MORE (R-Texas) told reporters Monday “an apology is appropriate ... from the person who said that really dumb thing.”

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWill Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall Hillicon Valley: House panel takes on election security | DOJ watchdog eyes employee texts | Senate Dems urge regulators to block T-Mobile, Sprint deal | 'Romance scams' cost victims 3M in 2018 MORE (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 TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — House moving to vote on deal after signals Trump will sign Artist buys Trump souvenir wedding cake for nearly K at auction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Getting Trump to ‘yes’ on border security deal MORE 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.