WASHINGTON — As President Trump prepares to address Congress, efforts by the White House to crack down on leaks backfired yesterday when the crackdown itself was leaked to the press.
In an effort to find out who has been blabbing to the media, White House press secretary Sean Spicer has imposed a number of security changes, including random checks of White House staffers’ cellphones, according to a Politico report.
That report cites unnamed members of the White House communications staff, who said they were summoned by Spicer to an “emergency meeting” where they were told to dump their phones on a table to prove they were not sending information to the press.
The meeting was called after details from another meeting of communications aides were leaked to reporters, and such leaks — both by White House staffers and by intelligence officials — have become a persistent issue that both Trump and Spicer have repeatedly voiced frustrations about.
“Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” Trump tweeted yesterday, referring to reports by The New York Times and other publications that Trump’s campaign was in contact with Russian officials before the election.
Trump will speak before a joint session of Congress tomorrow for the first time as president, a speech that is not billed as an official State of the Union address, but one that will give the president a chance to speak to the nation directly at a time when he has increasingly feuded with members of the press.
During another press gaggle Friday, Spicer expressed frustration about news leaks about White House meetings where only a handful of people were present.
“I’ve literally gone back to people and said, ‘There is a room that occurred with four, five, six people in it, and this didn’t happen because I was in the room,’ ” Spicer told reporters, urging them to stop using unnamed sources. “And they’ll say, ‘Yeah, but people who were briefed by those people.’ So how many degrees of telephone do you play before at least you’re willing to say, ‘If someone in the room won’t at least put their name on it or you won’t admit that somebody in the room is willing to say it?’ ”
The Politico report comes as a new poll shows more than half of Americans believe the media is too critical of the president. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey yesterday showed that 51 percent of responders said the press is too hard on Trump, while 41 percent believe the president has been treated fairly and objectively.
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