from the thanks-obama dept
As we discussed over and over again during the past eight years, the Obama White House -- despite a first day pledge to be "the most transparent administration in history" -- was actually quite famous for its extreme secrecy, combined with a seriously paranoid view of anyone leaking anything unflattering to the White House. As we detailed, the Obama White House declared any unflattering leaks as "aiding the enemy." And, of course, the Obama administration went after more leakers/whistleblowers with Espionage Act claims than all other Presidents in history combined.
So, now, I guess we'll see what the Trump administration does about leaks. So far, in just the first few weeks of the Trump administration, the number of leaks out of the White House has been fairly astounding. There are leaks on just about everything, with some being just downright silly (and a few being literally unbelievable). In a larger report in Politico on how Trump is adjusting to the job of being President, there's a brief mention that he's getting increasingly frustrated by the leaks and is seeking to have them stop:
After Trump grew infuriated by disclosures of his confrontational phone calls with foreign leaders, an investigation was launched into the source of the leaks, according to one White House aide. National Security Council staffers have been instructed to cooperate with inquiries, including requests to inspect their electronic communications, said two sources familiar with the situation. It’s not clear whether the investigation is a formal proceeding, how far along it is or who is conducting it.
The administration is considering limiting the universe of aides with access to the calls or their transcripts, said one administration official, adding that the leaks — and Trump’s anger over them — had created a climate where people are “very careful who they talk to.”
And, now, in the wake of a variety of leaks that resulted in National Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigning, the President is trying to shift the story to being about leaks:
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
This is only marginally hilarious, coming from the same President who regularly praised Wikileaks during his campaign, and who almost certainly owes his presidencey, in part, to multiple damaging leaks on his opponent during the campaign. Sean Spicer doubled down on this angle in a press briefing today — after joking about how he needs to stop lecturing reporters on what stories to cover, he proceeded to lecture them about the idea that they should be focusing on the existence of White House leaks as the real story.
Of course, Washington DC is a town that thrives, and often seems to live off of, leaks from the government. I can imagine just how frustrating it must be to experience it first hand, but it sort of comes with the territory. It's also a very, very important way in which the public is able to hold the government accountable. Leaks reveal things that keep the government's worst impulses in check, which is why it's a form of whistleblowing.
That said, this seems like yet another reason to be annoyed with the Obama administration's vast, paranoid crackdown on leakers. It has set the blueprint for a Trump administration if it chooses to go down that same path. It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will pick up where Obama left off and go after leakers quite as aggressively as the last administration. But the quotes above (ironically... leaked from the White House) certainly indicate a plan to crack down on leakers, and to date, Trump has not shown that he's interested in moderation when it comes to hitting back at those who displease him. One can only hope that he doesn't decide to take the Obama blueprint and go even further in going after leakers and whistleblowers.