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Trump calls White House leakers ‘traitors’ and vows to ‘find out who they are’

President Donald Trump stands outside of the Oval Office, May 1, 2018. (Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/TNS)
May 15, 2018

President Donald Trump on Monday defended the White House against “so-called leaks” that have been widespread in the media, and he vowed that White House leakers would be uncovered.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway even suggested there could be personnel changes at the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over-exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are,” the President tweeted Monday.

Jonathan Swan, of Axios, wrote a piece over the weekend about White House leakers discussing why they leak.

One White House official told Swan they leak for usually two reasons: personal vendetta, and “to make sure there’s an accurate record of what’s really going on in the White House.”

White House officials recently expressed their anger and disappointment over a leak that was widely reported in the media about press aide Kelly Sadler saying during a West Wing meeting that Sen. John McCain is “dying anyway.”

That remark had reportedly been addressed internally, but it has opened the floodgates for White House officials to address the rampant leaking.

In an interview with Fox News, Conway said Monday she expected personnel changes after all the leaking.

“There are all kinds of leaks,” Conway told Fox. “Some leaks exist to hurt colleagues, some leaks exist because they disagree with the policies that are being put forth. But none of them are helpful and I will tell you something else that’s going on in this White House, but not as badly as it was in the beginning, it’s not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other.”

Another official who spoke to Swan said the leaks are usually because of internal policy battles.

“The most common substantive leaks are the result of someone losing an internal policy debate,” a current senior administration official told Swan. “By leaking the decision, the loser gets one last chance to kill it with blowback from the public, Congress or even the President.”

“Otherwise, you have to realize that working here is kind of like being in a never-ending ‘Mexican Standoff.’ Everyone has guns (leaks) pointed at each other and it’s only a matter of time before someone shoots. There’s rarely a peaceful conclusion so you might as well shoot first,” the official added.

Two former administration officials also spoke to Swan.

“Leaking is information warfare; it’s strategic and tactical — strategic to drive narrative, tactical to settle scores,” a former senior White House official said.

Another former official told Swan: “Any time I leaked, it was out of frustration with incompetent or tone-deaf leadership. Bad managers almost always breed an unhappy workplace, which ultimately results in pervasive leaking. And there has been plenty of all those things inside this White House. Some people use leaking to settle personal scores, or even worse to attack the President, but for me it was always to make a point about something that I felt was being unjustly ignored by others.”