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May 16, 2018

Fox & Friends hosts are on board with most of the Trump administration's choices, so it's mystifying to them why any White House staffer wouldn't be.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared on the Fox News morning show Wednesday, where the hosts grilled her about how much information has been leaked from administration staffers to the press.

"What is going on at the White House, because it looks like the president can't even trust his own staff?" host Steve Doocy asked Sanders. The press secretary ranted against anyone who would leak information, calling the act "disgusting" and "shameful" and vowing to fire anyone who did it. But Doocy wanted a better explanation than that: "Sarah, why do they do it?" he asked. "Are they just trying to stab other staff members in the back? Are they trying to advance their political agenda? Are they trying to set the record straight? What the heck is going on?!"

Sanders couldn't explain why staffers would be motivated to leak, but she did accuse some of making up false information to pass along to reporters. Watch the exchange below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

May 13, 2018

It seems that every time there's a closed-door meeting at the White House, within minutes of it ending — and sometimes even before it's over — one or more attendees will call or text their favorite reporter and spill every detail.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a meeting about the leaks, and the details promptly leaked. Jonathan Swan of Axios asked his sources inside the White House why they leak, and they were refreshingly honest. One senior official said most leaks are "the result of someone losing an internal policy debate," and another shared that staffers leak due to "personal vendettas," and also to "make sure there's an accurate record of what's really going on in the White House."

One former official said they leaked information "out of frustration with incompetent or tone-deaf leadership," and found leaking to be "strategic and tactical — strategic to drive narrative, tactical to settle scores." A staffer that really put some thought into this told Swan that they pay attention to idioms used by their colleagues and "use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me." Catherine Garcia

April 2, 2018

It was Kellyanne Conway, in the White House, with the telephone.

News leaks from the White House roughly eight seconds after it happens, and Ronald Kessler, the author of a new book about the state of President Trump's administration, says he has an idea of who passes along the most information to the media: Conway, counselor to President Trump and spin doctor extraordinaire.

On Sunday's State of the Union, Kessler told CNN's Jake Tapper that "if you wonder why there are so many leaks out of the White House, one reason is Kellyanne Conway is the No. 1 leaker." Kessler shared that Conway once forgot during an interview with him that she was on-the-record, and let loose — she said "mean, cutting, and honestly untrue" things about former chief of staff Reince Priebus, Kessler said, and also "dissed" Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Speaking of Ivanka and Jared, Kessler told Tapper that Trump sees the pair, who pushed the president to fire former FBI Director James Comey and hire short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, as "problems," but it's highly unlikely he'd ever fire his family. Scaramucci was "the most absurd hire in the history of the White House," Kessler added, and the firing of Comey wound up being "disastrous." Kessler's book, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, is out Tuesday. Catherine Garcia

November 10, 2017

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election has turned its attention to an alleged meeting between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and pro-Russia Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), NBC News reports. The meeting reportedly occurred in September 2016 and was also attended by Flynn's son, among other people.

As NBC notes, "Mueller's interest in the nature of Flynn and Rohrabacher's discussion marks the first known time a member of Congress could be wrapped into the investigation."

On Sunday, NBC News reported that Mueller already has enough evidence to indict Flynn, who resigned from his position as national security adviser less than a month into the Trump administration after apparently lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia, and failing to register as an agent of the Turkish government.

For his part, Rohrabacher has long been viewed as a friend of Russia. In 2012, the FBI reportedly warned Rohrabacher that Russian spies were actively trying to recruit him. And in May, The Washington Post published audio of a conversation in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Republican lawmakers, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." A spokesman for McCarthy initially denied the exchange ever occurred, but eventually told the Post that it was "a failed attempt at humor." Kelly O'Meara Morales

June 23, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday that it is expanding its probe into Russia's influence over the 2016 election to include an investigation of the firing of FBI Director James Comey and, by extension, former President Barack Obama's attorney general, Loretta Lynch, and her "alleged political interference," CBS News reports.

The committee is interested in a New York Times article from April that cited a hacked Russian intelligence memo that quoted a Democratic operative as "express[ing] confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the [investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server] from going too far." Many U.S. intelligence officials, including the FBI, believe the memo is unreliable or an outright fake.

"Still, the document, according to The Washington Post, factored into then-FBI Director James Comey's controversial decision to publicly announce the end of the Clinton email investigation — without discussing it in advance with Lynch," CBS News writes. And in his letter to President Trump recommending the firing of Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote that Comey "was wrong to usurp [Lynch's] authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement."

The Senate Judiciary Committee letter announcing the new probe was signed by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Jeva Lange

June 14, 2017

The Washington Post published its latest scoop related to President Trump on Wednesday night — five different officials told the paper that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice — and as soon as the Republican National Committee wrote its talking points in response to the story, the pages were leaked to the Post's Philip Rucker.

On Twitter, Rucker shared the talking points that were put together in an attempt to discredit his paper's report, saying they were sent to him by a source. The document mentions leaks several times, calling them "inexcusable, outrageous, and illegal. The leaks are the only crime here." The investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a "fishing expedition," and if the investigators "had a real case, they wouldn't be leaking information," the RNC argued. The Republican talking-point creators concluded that the obstruction of justice charges are "baseless" and it's time to "get back to the real issues that matter to Americans." Maybe tomorrow there will be a leak about the leak about the leaks. Catherine Garcia

June 5, 2017

A federal contractor has been charged with leaking a classified National Security Agency document on Russian hacking before the 2016 presidential election to an online media outlet, the Department of Justice announced Monday.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, of Pluribus International Corporation in Georgia, admitted to purposely leaking the information, prosecutors said, and she was arrested on June 3. "Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation's security and undermines public faith in government," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement Monday. "People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation."

Winner had top secret security clearance, and an internal audit found that she was one of just six people who printed the leaked document, and the sole person to have made contact via email with a news outlet. While the Department of Justice did not say who she leaked the document to, several people with knowledge of the situation told CNN the information she leaked was the basis for an article The Intercept published on Monday regarding a cyberattack by Russian military intelligence against a U.S. voting software supplier before last year's election. Catherine Garcia

March 23, 2017

U.S. Treasury Department agents investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's work in Eastern Europe have received information this year about Manafort's offshore financial transactions in Cyprus, The Associated Press reported early Thursday, citing "a person familiar with the case." Cypriot investigators reportedly turned over the documents to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the Cyprus attorney general was aware of the U.S. request. Manafort declined to comment to the AP and a Treasury spokesman said he could not confirm or deny potential investigations.

The time period covered under the requested documents isn't clear, AP says, though federal prosecutors have been interested in Manafort's actions in relation to stolen Ukrainian assets since one of his clients, pro-Moscow former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in 2014. (No U.S. charges have been filed in that case.) AP — which reported on Wednesday that Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract in 2006 with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin — says U.S. investigators are expected to examine millions of dollars in wire transfers to Cyprus. Manafort is known to use Cyprus to route money, AP says, including from Deripaska, as detailed in a 2014 lawsuit. Those secretive transfers are not in themselves illegal.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says President Trump was unaware of Manafort's work for Deripaska. Democrats said the Trump-Russian connections keep piling up. AP's reporting "undermines the groundless assertions that the administration has been making that there are no ties between President Trump and Russia. This is not a drip, drip, drip," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. "This is now dam-breaking with water flushing out with all kinds of entanglements." You can read more at AP. Peter Weber

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