There is still an unresolved issue of leaks in the Trump White House.
His firing of James Comey due to, as we now know by Trump’s televised admission, the Russia investigation has not inspired the kind of loyalty or fear to quell those leaks. Rather, it may have set off a whole new stream.
In reality, the firing of Comey probably exacerbated long-simmering tensions between Trump and the intelligence community. He hasn’t exactly been respectful of them, and even though he hasn’t gone directly at them in weeks, it’s kind of hard to forget that he spent a lot of time trying to turn the nation they’re assigned to protect against them.
These new events seem to have poked both the FBI and the Justice Department with a sharp stick.
At a moment of crisis, the White House looks surrounded on the outside and divided on the inside.
“It’s total chaos,” said one former transition team official with close ties to the administration.
“It’s image-making on the inside and people trying to protect themselves. There is a deep streak of paranoia among staff. The communications team s— the bed on the Comey firing and now the war with the FBI has them all scared and throwing each other under the bus.
“Thank God I don’t work there. If I did, I’d be dialing up my attorney.”
Yeah, that doesn’t sound good.
Trump has had to deal with some sort of story of conflict or just bungling of basic issues and message pretty much every week since he took office.
Having this become an issue now was not what he needed.
In the stories, Trump’s decision to fire Comey was described as the result of “festering anger” at the FBI director for failing to prioritize leaks coming out of the bureau over the investigation into allegations Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians during the election.
Trump was “stewing” at Comey for weeks, even as some close to him, including chief strategist Stephen Bannon, reportedly advised that the time was not right to fire Comey.
Further, it appears Trump only told his staff an hour ahead of time that he was about to fire Comey, but then took it out on them when they weren’t prepared to adequately defend the move.
And the flood of leaks and unflattering stories came tumbling out.
Everything from reports that Comey had asked for more funding for the Russia investigation, just before being fired (something acting director McCabe shot down on Thursday), to a report that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general was so unhappy with being used as a pretext for the firing that he considered resigning (he denies it).
People on both sides of the controversy have their theories and are chiming in.
“Do we now have to worry about deep state officials that gather intelligence are going to go after Americans and the president politically, or the FBI, some that don’t like him might be leaking to hurt this president?,” Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s top boosters in conservative media, asked on his Wednesday night show.
Go after Americans?
That was a bit of a leap, Sean.
Dov Zakheim, a former Defense official in George W. Bush’s administration, told The Hill those fears might not be far off.
“Should the administration be perceived as trying to influence, stall or undermine the investigation, there will be Justice lawyers and/or FBI agents or both who will see it as their patriotic duty and ethical imperative to leak to the press,” Zakheim said.
And that part may be true.
Trump has proven to be his own worst enemy, in this regard. He wants loyalty, but his actions don’t really inspire loyalty or confidence, and some may very well set out to use their office to neutralize what they see as a corrosive element within Trump’s administrative style.