On his show Anderson Cooper 360 tonight, the CNN host dealt with Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on leaks of information (on Russia in particular) from his staff.
“White House spokesperson Sean Spicer is on orders from the president, who is cracking down on leaks in the Russia story…He’s taking it very seriously, taking serious measures, trying to identify White House insiders who may be communicating with reporters,” Anderson said to his audience, indicating we know this because the information about the crackdown on leaks ironically leaked itself.
“Well, Anderson, first and foremost, Sean Spicer is trying to get the word out to his staff and others that they are serious about this. The president from the top down is serious about leaks and he wants them to stay on Messenger,” revealed Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, adding that people’s phones were checked to see if they were sending text messages and other things to reporters.
NYMag is more specific on the crackdown.
“The search — which applied to both personal and government-issued phones — was overseen by White House lawyers, and Spicer then warned staffers against using privacy-focused messaging apps like Signal and Confide, noting that doing so violates the Federal Records Act.”
The article adds that Spicer warned the group that there would be even more problems if news of the phone checks leaked, which is what ended up happening.
Zeleny indicated that multiple sources say the president actually signed off on this. Trump has allegedly been so intent on putting a stop to the leaks. However, Sean Spicer says that he, not Trump, is the one who promoted this.
“The point remains the same. We stand by our reporting on that,” Zeleny continued, denying Spicer’s statement and adding that it’s possible that the White House really wanted news about the meeting leaked in order to put people on notice.
Cooper said that he understood why the leaks could be demoralizing to the the White House and asked Zeleny what would happen if leaks about the meeting got out.
“Anderson, we are told it is very serious. It’s definitely a fireable offense if people are found to be leaking things. But again, all White Houses have leaks. Some are sanctioned, some are not,” Zeleny indicated.
Anderson Cooper soon had his panel on to discuss the White House’s attempted crackdown on leaks. Democratic Strategist Paul Begala, who worked with the Clinton administration, said that Trump’s crackdown is not the way to get people together to solve problems.
“You treat people like they’re disloyal, and they are going to be disloyal. Donald Trump would not be president without leaks — WikiLeaks,” Pegala said, pointing out Trump’s alleged hypocrisy.
Former White House Communications Director (under Obama) Jen Psaki told Anderson Cooper that there are leaks in every White House. She believes, like others, that Trump had the story about the crackdown on leaks get out so he could warn people. She believes he did this because they don’t want people to focus on more serious issues such as Team Trump’s alleged contacts with Russians.
Matt Lewis, a senior columnist for the Daily Beast, said that all of this undermine Trump’s storyline of “fake news” and “anonymous sources.” He believes Trump is trying to put the blame on holdovers from Obama’s administration.
Ryan Lizza, a CNN political commentator, said that leaks happen because of division within the White House, and it helps the leakers feel better. Do you think Trump will be able to stop the leaks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
[Featured Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]