Speaking at a last minute briefing Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany implied criminal investigations into officials who leaked classified information to the New York Times over the weekend are underway. The intelligence information given to the newspaper was about unverified allegations Russia paid Taliban terrorists to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"The front page of the New York Times is not the venue for discussing classified information. The White House podium is not the venue for discussing classified information. We are here today having this discussing because of an irresponsible, anonymous leak to the New York Times," she said. "There is no good scenario as a result of this New York Times report. Who's going to want to cooperate with the United States intelligence community? Who's going to want to be a source? Or an asset if they know their identity could be disclosed. Which allies will want to share information with us if they know some rogue intelligence officer can go splash that information on the front page of a major U.S. newspaper."
McEnany went on to argue the leak makes it nearly impossible to get to the bottom of the intelligence and come to a consensus about whether the Russian/Taliban allegations were true. She reiterated President Trump was not previously briefed on the information because there wasn't consensus within a number of spy agencies about whether the intelligence was true.
"This level of controversy and discord plays directly into the hands of Russia and unfortunately serves their interests," she continued. "We have seen targeted leaks of classified information against this President and it is irresponsible. Phone calls with foreign leaders, meetings with government officials and now reports of alleged intelligence. Make no mistake, this damages our ability as a nation to collect intelligence. As the National Security Council noted just yesterday, to those government officials who betray the people of the United States by leaking classified information, your actions engager national security."
McEnany indicated criminal investigations will be launched to hold recent leakers accountable.
"Make no mistake the DOJ has done several criminal leak referrals, 120 in 2017, 88 in 2018, 104 on average per year under President Trump so we do take those steps. We have a President who ultimately when it comes down to the safety of our troops, he doesn't take impulsive action, he take deliberate action," McEnany said, adding that leaking classified information is a crime.
Illegal leaks of classified information from intelligence officials have tripled under President Trump and have been repeatedly used as political weapons against his administration.
"These are rogue intelligence officers who are imperiling our troops' lives," she continued. "You have both the NSC, ODNI and CIA all noting what damage this leak does. Not just to the safety of our troops, which is paramount, but to the ability of the United States to aggregate information from our allies."