Leaks have been a constant source of woe for Donald Trump’s White House, and as he tries to get a grip on his presidency, his administration is increasingly cracking down on that flow of unauthorized information. First new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci threatened to “fire everybody” over leaks, and indicated that, if necessary, he would take the communications team down to just himself and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Now Jeff Sessions, recent target of President Trump’s considerable ire, is rumored to be working on his own solution to the leak problem.
Ironically, it’s Trump and Scaramucci themselves who are hinting in a leak-like way at Session’s initiative. Much as they are pressuring everyone from White House aids to Sessions himself to resign with a barrage of threats dropped in press conferences and on Twitter, their sudden emphasis on leaks might be part of a larger strategy. “I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies,” Trump told reporters assembled at the White House Rose Garden. “These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen.”
When CNN asked Scaramucci directly about Sessions’ strategy for stopping leaks, the communications director got more oblique on the matter:
“I wouldn’t say just the White House. He’s putting a plan together for the interagencies and I want to work very closely with him as the director of communications and I want to work with the other agencies and departments to get our message coordinated amongst ourselves and we want to uproot some of these leakers because, yes, I’m not naïve, I know that we’re never going to end all the leaking, I didn’t suggest that, but I want to put a culture in place where people trust each other.”
Part of what’s made the recent battle between Sessions and Trump so thorny is the President’s anger over what he perceives to be Sessions’ lack of loyalty, even as Sessions strives to keep in step with Trump’s agenda. Sessions has rarely been out of step with Trump, except in his recusal from the Senate’s Russia probe, and yet Trump quickly turned on one of his most faithful supporters. That isn’t lost on others in the President’s orbit. Even Breitbart News, which had quite a hand in Trump’s rise to power, called the President out. The alt-right publication declared that the feud with Sessions “only serves to highlight Trump’s own hypocrisy.”
If Sessions does choose to crack down on leaks in all areas of government with more investigations into who is leaking and why, that might placate Trump. Or it might not. But it will be hard for Trump to smooth over the damage this standoff has done to his reputation with Sessions’ supporters.