President Donald Trump is outraged about the number of intelligence leaks to the press since he took office — seemingly in large part because the news reports forced the White House to fire former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. His concerns have reached the ears of top congressional investigators.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Republican House Judiciary Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte sent a letter this week to the Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, requesting an immediate investigation into intelligence leaks.
“We have serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information here,” the letter said. “The release of classified national security information can, by definition, have grave effects on national security.”
But Chaffetz is still not eager to investigate the revelation that came of these leaks, which could also have major implications on national security.
Flynn resigned late Monday amid scandal over his call with the Russian ambassador to the US, which he made the same day President Barack Obama’s administration placed new sanctions on Moscow. A series of leaks revealed Flynn had lied to top White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the extent of his conversations with the Russian envoy, and that he had discussed the sanctions on the call. Democrats and some Republicans are arguing about whether this should prompt another investigation, this time into Flynn’s close ties with Russia and how much the White House knew about the call.
Looking back at the House Oversight Committee’s actions since Trump’s election, it’s not particularly surprising that Chaffetz is picking this fight over the other.
A map of what Chaffetz will and will not investigate. (Hint: It’s what affects Trump the least.)
A larger trend is forming around the House Oversight Committee’s priorities.
When it comes to investigating Trump, Chaffetz has said he will investigate intelligence leaks, which ultimately made the White House look bad. But he appears to have no plans to investigate the revelation that members of the Trump’s administration — and inner circle — possibly had close ties Russian government officials.
Chaffetz has formally admonished Kellyanne Conway for advertising Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, but has declined to investigate Trump’s numerous conflicts of interest. He did, however, once threaten to investigate the chair of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, for questioning Trump’s commitment to ethics laws. Chaffetz also called on the White House to give information on security measures at Mar-a-Lago.
The Oversight Committee’s most recent request seems like protocol; investigating the handling of confidential information is an expected response to instances of intelligence leaks. And Trump has made clear that he expects some kind of consequence for the publication of classified material in the press.
The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017
But the decision to investigate the leaks comes on the heels of a fervent bipartisan debate on the Hill: whether Congress should push harder to probe the potential ties Trump’s administration and past campaign staff have with foreign actors.
Chaffetz said his committee would not investigate Flynn’s contact with the Russian government, or the extent of his communications with White House officials.
That, Chaffetz told reporters Tuesday, is “taking care of itself."