Not long ago, Donald Trump made a big show of how he loved leaks.
Waving copies of hacked Hillary Clinton emails as he addressed a campaign rally in Pennsylvania in October, Trump said: “I love WikiLeaks.
“It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet.”
True enough. On Wednesday, Chelsea Manning walked out of prison after serving 7 years of a 28-year sentence for uploading thousands of secret military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks in a massive dump of sensitive materials.
As chance would have it, the former Army private departed from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, just as big new leaks resounded from the highest places in the federal government.
After four months in the Oval Office, Trump’s professed love for leaks has vanished. Other presidents, including his predecessor Barack Obama, promised openness and delivered secrecy, but this incumbent turned around at lightning speed.
According to the latest leaks, then-FBI Director James Comey made notes of a conversation in which Trump urged him to consider prosecuting journalists for reporting on leaks of classified information.
That follows leaked reports that Trump leaked to Russian officials classified information about the Islamic State group attacking jetliners. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster defended the president’s pass-along of the information and chided those who told of it.
“Our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality,” McMaster said.
Apparently a president’s blurt differs from a subordinate’s leak. Trump called it a joke last year after he declared: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
“I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
But since Trump took the oath, back-channel information doesn’t seem to fuel his flippancy.
As Democrats pushed their Russia-collusion-election line, Trump gave GOP lawmakers an alternative errand — to investigate “pervasive leaks of classified information.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) acknowledged that he visited the White House grounds in March, where officials anonymously leaked to him intelligence reports supposedly supporting Trump’s concerns.
Trump, who in private life leaked stories about himself to newspapers, appears at the moment to head a less-than-watertight White House.
Peggy Noonan, the well-known conservative author and former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, posted in a commentary last month on Trump adviser Steve Bannon:
“They say he leaks like a sieve and disparages his rivals, and this can be assumed to be correct: They all do that in this White House.”
Who leaks what and why is always a problem for elected executives — even those who have not made angry charges against intelligence agencies.
But by now, the president or his staff members must have considered the famous horror-movie trope: “The calls are coming from inside the house!”