With all the recent leaks out of the White House involving the Trump administration, a lot of fear has taken over, with paranoia leading to a so-called “witch hunt” for those responsible for the leaks. Obviously, the Trump administration is not happy about leaks getting out to the press. However, with Donald Trump openly admitting to a war with the press, it seems that if we have to keep score, and the press appears to be winning by a landslide.
According to a report out of Reuters, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently used his first senior staff meeting in February to make sure his new aides know that leaks to the news media would not be tolerated. Of course, this got out to the press, so clearly, his words didn’t do much to stop anything. Due to the leaks, practices have been changed.
Access to a classified computer system at the White House has been tightened by political appointees. This was to prevent professional staffers from seeing any memos being prepared for President Trump. However, this is not where the different policies stop or where the paranoia halts, as it also seems to be going on at the Department of Homeland Security as well.
Officials told Reuters that they fear a “witch hunt” is underway for whoever leaked a draft of an intelligence report. This is the report that found little evidence that citizens of the seven major Muslim countries on Trump’s travel ban list were not a threat to the United States of America. Of course, the Trump administration refused to accept the claims made in the report, which was not surprising.
However, the mess involving leaks and the hunt to pinpoint those responsible has fueled paranoia among career civil servants in Washington, D.C. They claim that all of this appears designed to limit the flow of information in and out of government and keep officials from talking to the media about topics that could result in negative stories.
That being said, the Trump administration is trying to make sure practically nothing gets out to the press. Many have to wonder if the Trump administration is doing this because they know negative stories can come from staffers. They would rather Americans only know what Press Secretary Sean Spicer or the president himself tells them.
Of course, all of these leaks have gotten to President Trump, and it has made him incredibly angry, according to the report. These issues have been a key topic of discussion ever since his administration took office, which would either mean the media is out to get Trump or there is real dysfunction. More likely than not, there are major stories getting released that President Trump does not want anyone to know about.
President Trump has resented the press due to all of the negative reports and has described outlets as “corrupt” and “liars” on multiple occasions. He even claimed that the media was “the enemy of the American people.” However, the same media also led to Michael Flynn resigning from his position and Jeff Sessions to recuse himself just recently over possible Russian connections.
At a news conference last month, Trump claimed, “The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.”
He is saying that while there are real leaks, the news media is making up stories to fit their narrative. While some outlets have done such over the years, universally this does not occur and never has. Trump said that he had asked the Department of Justice to look into leaks of “classified information that was given illegally” to journalists regarding the relationship between his aides and Russia.
If there was not a connection between President Trump and Russia, then clearly he would not be worried about people from his administration having spoken to anyone. Of course, there is a thought that people are being monitored to ensure they do not leak any information to the press, true or not. In fact, many are reluctant to talk with the press despite having information.
According to the report from Reuters, which spoke with several officials across a variety of different agencies, the condition of anonymity is a problem. Employees fear their phone calls and emails are being monitored and are fearful about speaking their minds during internal discussions. In addition, the same sources claim that limits imposed on the flow of information have totally blindsided cabinet officials on some major issues. This has led to uncertainty among foreign nations about United States policy.
Of course, as reported last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer asked for aides to hand over their phones for inspection so they could crack down on leaks. Of course, as anyone could imagine, this has led to a lot of different reactions, with the feeling of intimidation being present when it came to leaks, even for those who have not been connected to them.
In fact, at the State Department, there is a fear of getting caught in the leak investigation, so much so that some officials will only discuss issues face to face, rather than use phones, emails, or text messages.
According to two State Department officials, “There is a climate of intimidation, not just about talking to reporters, but also about communicating with colleagues.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner claimed, “There does have to be some degree of trust among colleagues in order to have those kinds of conversations.”
The State Department is not the only area where some issues seem to be going on. There is said to be high anxiety at this point in the Department of Homeland Security.
Officials in that department told Reuters, “The atmosphere has become toxic, and that is not conducive to the work.”
All of this has led to major changes. In one change made right after President Trump took office, staffers cannot choose who may see and edit a memo. In fact, access to this has to be approved by the National Security Executive Secretary and retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg. This basically means that paranoia has gotten so out of hand that the Trump administration has to have a watchman over things at all times.
When asked about the various new restrictions, National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton claimed, “President Trump takes very seriously the criminal release of classified information critical to U.S. national security. Access procedures are designed to ensure that appropriate personnel see material relevant to their duties, while protecting sensitive information.”
Of course, due to all of the changes, there are a lot of issues trying to get things done as well as it once was. In fact, one U.S. official has called the new system “inefficient,” claiming that Kellogg’s office may know who has “equities” in a given issue and may not be sharing the drafts.
Meanwhile, another administration official said that the White House changed the access procedures about a month ago, adding, “It was changed in response to two very significant leaks. This was a reactive move on the NSC’s part.”
This was in reaction to the leaks of the contents of Trump’s conversation with the president of Mexico and prime minister of Australia. Obviously, with major leaks getting out, President Trump and his administration rightfully have trouble and want to stop it, which is why all of these checks and changes are being implemented. However, to extend fear among the people in Washington, D.C. is clearly wrong, and if people cannot speak freely to the press out of fear, this is an issue that cannot be allowed.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]