If there ever was a day where Donald Trump and his closest aides wouldn’t be hooting and hollering about leaks, you’d think it would happen on a holiday weekend. You would be wrong.
Axios reported on Sunday that White House staffers are now just admitting that their colleagues are using leak accusations to, essentially, be petty as hell:
Trump administration officials have told me that “X is a leaker” has in this White House become synonymous with “I don’t like X.” Everyone knows the leaker accusation has become the most powerful weapon you can wield against somebody you don’t like, especially to Trump.
Here’s an example: White House special assistant Kelly Sadler, who found herself in hot water after it was leaked that she said that frequent Trump critic John McCain would be “dead soon anyway,” reportedly pinned that leak on her boss, Mercedes Schlapp. She reportedly did this in front of Schlapp and Trump himself, as well as deputy press secretary Raj Shah and chief of staff John Kelly:
The president told Sadler she wouldn’t be fired for her remark. He added, separately in the conversation, that he’s no fan of McCain. Then Trump, who had grown obsessed with the leaking problem, told Sadler he wanted to know who the leakers were. Sadler then stunned the room: To be completely honest, she said, she thought one of the worst leakers was Schlapp, her boss.
Schlapp pushed back aggressively and defended herself in the room. And in follow up conversations after the meeting, some of Schlapp’s colleagues also came to her defense. (In a prior meeting, she had said, “You can put this on the record: I stand with Kelly Sadler”). Sadler went on to name other people she also suspected of being leakers.
If the White House is going to make a concerted effort to root out leakers—which they probably won’t, considering Trump himself is reportedly one of the biggest leakers—they’re going to have their work cut out for them. In the immediate aftermath of the Sadler leak, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lambasted members of the communications team for the leak. Five people—five—reportedly told Axios details of that meeting.
Yesterday, Trump accused the New York Times of inventing a source because they quoted a “senior administration official” on a conference call that included other outlets. Just a very normal executive branch we have here.