President Donald Trump’s strategy of publicly shaming Attorney General Jeff Sessions to force him to aggressively pursue the leakers who have been a persistent source of agitation for his administration appears to have worked. After announcing during a press conference last month that he wanted Sessions “to go full-bore” in his pursuit of leakers, the “beleaguered” attorney general appears to be doing exactly that.
During a live press briefing on Friday that was tantamount to a declaration of war, Sessions said the Department of Justice will be cracking down on leaks of classified information, and is considering subpoenaing journalists to force them to reveal their sources in the Trump administration.
Furthermore, the attorney general boasted that scrutiny of leakers is already a priority for the DOJ, claiming that the number of open leak investigations has tripled during the Trump administration. Under the new policy framework, the FBI will create a counterintelligence unit specifically to manage these cases, according to the Hill.
“We are taking a stand,” Mr Sessions said. “This culture of leaking must stop," according to the Financial Times.
“These leaks hurt our country,” said Mr Sessions. “Every agency — and Congress — must do better.”
Sessions said the department will prioritize “unauthorized” disclosures – we assume this means leaks that aren’t a part of official communications department strategy which is…probably all of them – and that the DOJ “will not hesitate” to press criminal charges.
“At a press conference with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Sessions announced that the Justice Department, FBI and government intelligence agencies will begin directing resources into the investigations of government leaks and would prioritize prosecuting those that pass sensitive information along to the press.
The national security division of the Justice Department will prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures, Sessions said, and the departments “will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the public trust.”
Repeating an oft-used Trump talking point, Sessions said the first amendment doesn’t protect reckless disclosures of sensitive information that ultimately puts lives at risk.
“We respect the important role the press plays and we’ll give them respect, but it’s not unlimited,” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press’ role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the Armed Forces and all law-abiding Americans.”
According to the Hill, the flood of leaks has angered many who see it as a thinly veiled attempt by the deep state, which continues to be staffed with Obama administration holdovers, to hamstring the president and orchestrate a silent coup.
Sessions said his deputy director Rod Rosenstein and incoming FBI director Christopher Wray will oversee the classified leaks investigations.
In what the Daily Caller described as an “ominous” statement from Coats, the DNI warned leakers from within the intelligence community that “we will find you” should they continue to distribute classified information.
“For those out there who may be listening or watching these announcements understand this: if you improperly disclose classified information, we will find you,” Coats said. “We will investigate you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, and you will not be happy with the result.”
The campaign of damaging leaks carried out by the intelligence communities and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has fostered an atmosphere of hysteria among the American public by offering vague aspersions about collusion with the Russians, but no real evidence. The best example being the disclosure of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that was organized by Donald Trump Jr. and is currently at the center of several of the ongoing probes. Earlier this week, Trump was dealt his latest embarrassment when the Washington Post published transcripts of calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia earlier this year.
When Trump first started attacking Sessions last month, some speculated that the diminutive southerner would never work his way out of the dog house. But judging by Sessions' aggressive tone, it's likely his boss will be pleased (we'll likely hear from Trump, who never misses an opportunity to bash the leakers, shortly).