One persistent feature of the Trump administration has been what some say is an unprecedented number of politically-motivated anonymous leaks by intelligence community insiders. The national security implications of that caught the attention of Senator Ron Johnson head of the Homeland Security Committee.
Sen. Ron Johnson: Of course when you're President Trump and you get into office, you fought a hard campaign, you're President of the United States, the first thing you wouldn't expect is that you get on the phone with world leaders and have two conversations leaked within the first two weeks. One to the prime minister of Australia and one to the president of Mexico.
President Trump: I spoke to the President of Mexico, had a good call. All of a sudden, it's out there for the world to see. It's supposed to be either classified or confidential, in that case. Same thing with Australia. All of a sudden, people are finding out exactly what took place.
Sen. Johnson: Found out that in the first 125 days, I think it was, of the Trump administration, there were 126 leaks. I think 62 of those had to do with national security as the Obama administration defined it. That would compare it to less than 10 of similar type of national security leaks out of both the Bush and the Obama administration. Almost an order of magnitude worse. Unbelievable.
MSNBC News Clip: He is completely oblivious to how offensive and foolish he has been in his recent phone calls with foreign leaders.
Sen. Johnson: That’s where I've always said I'm pretty sympathetic with President Trump's distrust of some of these people in these agencies. Who can he trust in his administration when you have these massive agencies?
Sharyl: Johnson points to a text message revealed during the Trump-Russia probe. Anti-Trump FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page referred to the avalanche of leaks against then president-elect Trump.
Sen. Johnson: The one was December 15th of 2016 where Strzok texts Page and says, "You think our sisters are leaking like mad? Scorned and worried and political. They're kicking into overdrive.” That's really interesting-
Sharyl: That's the FBI saying that?
Sen. Johnson: That is ... Yes. They're referring to their sister agencies, probably the CIA or other intelligence agencies. Scorned. What are they worried about? We have pieces of the puzzle. We are still missing a lot of the puzzle.
Sharyl: What can be done about something like that? Should people be held accountable and what have you done with that information?
Sen. Johnson: Well, exposure, first and foremost. I am less concerned about prosecuting and putting a political figure in jail that I am exposing the behavior. The whole point of Congressional oversight investigations is to inform public policy, but also to inform the public.
Sharyl: Did you ask an inspector general to look into the leak situation?
Sen. Johnson: I did multiple times. The inspector general for the intelligence community, Inspector General Atkinson. He won't even tell us whether he is investigating it or not. Won't even tell us that.
Sharyl: What is the reason he gives?
Sen. Johnson: I have no idea.
Sharyl: He doesn't give a reason?
Sen. Johnson: Just giving us a big middle finger.
After that interview, President Trump announced he is removing the Intelligence Community Inspector General in question, Michael Atkinson. In a statement, Trump said: “It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
Atkinson’s office handled the early, anonymous insider complaint that led to President Trump’s impeachment over dealing with Ukraine. Atkinson’s actions were applauded by Trump critics and criticized by Trump supporters. Responses to news of his firing were similarly mixed. Democrat Adam Schiff, who chaired the House impeachment hearings, called it quote “yet another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the intelligence community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”