White House Suffers Steady Drumbeat of Illegal, Classified Leaks
Intelligence and legal experts agree Flynn recording and press dump are felonies
A group of career federal employees and national security officials have been whipped up into such a frenzy against President Donald Trump, they are committing felonies in leaking classified materials to outlets such as The Washington Post.
So says Joseph diGenova, who served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia under President Ronald Reagan.
“The leaks of the content of an intercepted communication are felonies … All of the disclosures to The Washington Post are federal crimes.”
The leaks have recently scored their first target: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, long targeted by the media and outgoing Democratic officials.
But it has not just been about Flynn. A Republican congressional staffer told LifeZette there is an uptick in damaging leaks, using highly classified material, since Trump was elected on Nov. 8.
The apparent aim: destroy the new administration. The leaks have usually involved classified material relating to Trump’s transition, Trump’s subordinates, or the president himself. And they involve national security details that should not be aired publicly, experts said.
DiGenova and the congressional staffer are not alone in their opinions. After the embarrassing resignation of Flynn for speaking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that the big story moving forward was the leaking of highly classified documents related to Flynn’s discussion.
Trump himself tweeted out his anger about the leaks on Tuesday.
"The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?" Trump said via Twitter. "Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N. Korea etc?"
So is the real story these leaks? Spicer was asked at the Tuesday briefing.
"It is leaks," Spicer said when asked about Trump's tweet. "If you think about it, all of this information was leaked ... I think there's a real story here. I think there's also a story here where the amount of leaks that are coming out of people that are entrusted with national security secrets and classified information are leaking it out."
DiGenova says Attorney General Jeff Sessions, now the head of the Department of Justice, must be resolute in going after the leaks.
"The leaks of the content of an intercepted communication are felonies," said diGenova. "All of the disclosures to The Washington Post are federal crimes."
The Post was the first major outlet to report, on Feb. 9, that "nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters" related to Flynn.
That story began a cascade of events that led to Flynn resigning very late on Monday night.
DiGenova wants a federal jury impaneled to examine the leak issue. He said the Department of Justice attorneys under Sessions shouldn't be too concerned: Under former President Obama, the department slapped subpoenas on more journalists than all other presidents combined.
"I don't think the Justice Department has any choice," said diGenova.
DiGenova said the constant drumbeat of negativity and harsh rhetoric aimed at Trump since he shocked the Beltway and both party Establishments on Nov. 8 have led some federal officials to believe they are beyond the law in opposing Trump.
The leaks began after the election, and even included how many times Trump was being briefed. Some observers speculate the leaks began from disgruntled Democrats on their way out.
Many of the Democrats likely expected to stay in the federal government if Hillary Clinton had won. Others may have believed the extreme rhetoric aimed at Trump and decided to damage the new president.
"People thought they could do anything they wanted in the name of the 'Resistance,'" said diGenova.
The U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will begin investigating the leaks soon, according to a congressional source on Capitol Hill, but he could not give an exact date.
"I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer," said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, according to a Tuesday story in The Post. "The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded."
Nunes and Flynn himself are curious how and why he was recorded in the Dec. 29 conversation with the Russian ambassador.
The congressional staffer told LifeZette that for an American to be recorded, even in a conversation with the Russian ambassador, a warrant would be needed.
Somehow, a warrant was not only given to record Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador, but someone high up "unmasked" Flynn in transcripts. The congressional staffer then said the leaks to the media followed.
Both diGenova and Spicer said talking to the Russian ambassador was not an unusual step for an incoming national security adviser. Spicer said Flynn likely spoke to about 30 of his foreign counterparts during transition.
Ultimately, Trump decided based on the transcripts that Flynn should have recalled talking to the ambassador about the controversial sanctions that Obama placed upon Russia on Dec. 29.
After talking to Flynn, Vice President Mike Pence told the media on Jan. 15 that Flynn did not talk about the sanctions, placed upon Russia by Obama for alleged hacking. Trust had been eroded, Spicer said on Tuesday.
Now Trump must ponder if he has a bevy of federal officials under him that he certainly cannot trust.