Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ready to announce a major crackdown on leakers this week, in the latest sign the Trump administration is pushing to run a much tighter ship as John Kelly seizes the reins as the new White House chief of staff.
One of the first tasks facing the retired general and former Homeland Security boss will be plugging the leaks at the White House that his predecessor struggled to stanch.
“If Reince [Priebus] couldn’t control those leaks … then he was the one who was ultimately responsible, and General Kelly was brought in to make sure those leaks do not continue,” former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday.
Kelly, with his apparent role in Monday’s removal of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, already has demonstrated he’ll oust staff members he thinks are causing problems.
But beyond the White House effort to halt nettlesome leaks about behind-the-scenes feuding, Sessions is expected to go further with an announcement on criminal leak investigations — specifically, concerning news reports that published sensitive intelligence material, according to officials who have been briefed on the matter.
Sessions plans to hold a press conference on leaks on Friday. The announcement may provide more of an overview of what the DOJ hopes to accomplish rather than specific prosecutions at this stage, Fox News is told.
Last month, a report written by Republicans on the Senate’s homeland security panel warned that the Trump administration faced an “alarming” amount of media leaks that posed a potential threat to national security. The 24-page report titled “State Secrets: How and Avalanche of Media Leaks is Harming National Security,” estimated the Trump administration has had about one leak per day.
The authors of the report urged the Justice Department to step up its investigations into the leaks.
Though Friday’s announcement has been in the works for some time, it comes during a particularly rocky period between President Trump and Sessions.
Trump has lashed out publicly over the past few weeks stating his “disappointment” with the country’s top law enforcement official via tweets, interviews and news conferences.
Trump also slammed Sessions for not being tougher on leaks from the intelligence community.
“I want the attorney general to be much tougher,” Trump said last week. “I want the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before, at a very important level. These are intelligence agencies we cannot have that happen.”
The president’s scathing criticism — especially over the AG’s recusal in the Russia probe — has fueled speculation Sessions could be next on the White House chopping block. Instead, three Trump insiders have either resigned or been fired in the past month, painting a picture of disorder and infighting in the Oval Office.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in protest after Trump announced he would make Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci director of communications. Then Priebus resigned last week. And Scaramucci left the White House Monday following a profanity-laced tirade he made to a New Yorker reporter where he criticized Priebus and Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Kelly was sworn in Monday as Trump’s new right-hand man.
“General Kelly has come in, he’s going to change, he’s going to pivot, he’s going to make sure he is the chief of staff. Not the chief of the president,” Lewandowski said. “What he’s going to do is he’s going to bring that staff together.”
Lewandowski said Kelly will “restore order” and was brought in to make sure the leaks Priebus couldn’t control would stop under his watch.