WASHINGTON — In Washington, leaks don’t just come from the pipes.
It’s leaks of information that have the White House in a tizzy, and they come from sources all over town — Congress, federal agencies and lobbyists among them.
Oh, and the White House itself.
President Donald Trump has railed against leaks, many of them damaging to him and the administration, since he took office.
His new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, last week spoke on CNN about “good leaks and bad leaks” and “nefarious, unnecessary, backstabbing, palace intrigue-like leaks.”
Some leaks are illegal disclosures of classified information. Others are perfectly legal trial balloons floated to test public reaction to an idea before it’s formally announced.
A taste of a whole menu of leaks:
- GOOD LEAKS AND BAD
Whether a leak is seen as good or bad rests with the beholder.
Take James Comey, the FBI director whom Trump fired in May because of the Russia investigation. Comey had a friend reveal to The New York Times the contents of memos Comey had written after several meetings with Trump. In the notes, Comey said Trump had asked him to drop the FBI investigation into activities by former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey copped to releasing the information in sworn testimony to Congress, saying he put the information out through an intermediary to achieve an end: Appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation. Trump castigated Comey as “a leaker.”
Scaramucci groused on CNN that details of his White House dinner with Trump and some of Scaramucci’s former colleagues at Fox News Channel last week had become public.
“I can’t have a couple of friends up from ‘Fox & Friends’ and Sean Hannity, who’s one of my closest friends, dinner with the president and his first lady without it being leaked in seven minutes,” he said.
- CLASSIFIED INFO
It’s against the law to disclose classified information, which generally is understood to mean material that could harm U.S. national security interests. Scaramucci suggested that the release of his financial disclosure form could be prosecuted as a felony. It turned out the document had been released in response to a public records request.
Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, told Fox News Channel last week that “there are leaks and then there are people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs.” A shiv could describe what Scaramucci did to former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus last Thursday by daring Priebus during a CNN interview to publicly deny that he’s a “leaker.” Scaramucci had suggested that Priebus had engineered the release of Scaramucci’s financial disclosure form.