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Trump officials are leaking to reporters that they aren’t supposed to leak to reporters

Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Holds White House Press Briefing Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

White House officials keep leaking internal conversations to reporters detailing that they’re being ordered not to leak internal conversations to reporters.

On Thursday, Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed her frustration about the leaks that keep appearing in the press about President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

Her remarks wound up in the press almost immediately. “Sanders gave staff members a stern lecture on leaking to the media during a staff meeting Thursday morning, according to several people familiar with the incident, saying it was damaging the White House,” Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Annie Karni, Eliana Johnson, and Tara Palmeri reported. “The lecture seemed to take staffers by surprise, said one person present.”

This is hardly the first time Trump officials have almost immediately defied their boss’s direct orders not to disclose information to the media by leaking something about the direct order itself.

  • Within the first week of Trump’s administration, close to 12 of his closest aides helped plant a story in the Washington Post about his frustration with negative news stories.
  • On March 3, three anonymous sources told Reuters that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “used his first senior staff meeting last month to tell his new aides he would not tolerate leaks to the news.”
  • Later that week, 17 different White House officials told the Washington Post that the president was “steaming, raging mad” in part over leaks documenting the internal discord roiling the young administration.
  • Also in early March, anonymous sources told Foreign Policy that White House IT officials that they’d met with a private security firm to find a way to “give administration officials control over how staffers use computers and cellphones to transmit sensitive information.”
  • Additionally, the state department sent an “anti-leak memo” to its staff, which was almost immediately published by the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin.

It’s worth pausing for a second to reflect on what the ongoing leaks about leaks suggest about the internal chaos of the Trump administration.

As Vox’s Yochi Dreazen has noted, trying to put together major White House initiatives presumably takes an act of faith that plans can be floated and debated without immediately leaking. How do you work with someone when a simple request to not leak information is itself liable to end up becoming public?

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