Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top administration officials are planning to announce details of investigations into leaks of classified material in an effort to crack down on White House leakers.
The press briefing follows of one of the biggest leaks under this administration – the disclosure of transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with two foreign leaders in January. Former federal prosecutors have said that leak likely constitutes a federal crime, and lawmakers of both parties have voiced concern about how that material got out and the security implications.
“Leaking the phone calls between our president and other heads of state is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, said on Friday. “I want there to be bipartisan outrage.”
She added the West Wing is a “small place” and finding the leakers might be “easier” than some realize.
It’s unclear exactly what leaks and cases Sessions and other officials might discuss Friday, in a briefing set for 11 a.m. ET.
Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina are all expected to brief the public at Justice Department headquarters.
On Capitol Hill, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said Thursday there should be criminal prosecution for leaking classified information, suggesting the transcript leak is such a case.
“Whoever leaked these needs to be found out and needs to be reprimanded, needs to be fired,” Lee said. “This is unacceptable and should never happen.”
Lee, who practiced law before being elected to the Senate in 2010, said such a leak “is a felony, a very serious federal felony offense.”
Based on the leaked documents, The Washington Post reported new details Thursday about Trump’s tense phone calls in late January with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Trump reportedly told the Mexican leader to stop publicly saying his government would not pay for a border wall.
The newspaper said the transcripts contained notes indicating they had been classified by the National Security Council chief of staff. The Post said it obtained full transcripts, which were “produced by White House staff” and based on records kept by White House note-takers.
“The unauthorized release of these documents to the press is a crime,” Joe diGenova, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told Fox News. “The series of acts involving release of notes of the president’s conversations with foreign leaders, and these transcripts, are a serious threat to national security.”
While some details of those calls already had emerged in February, the release of the transcripts marks a much bigger blow to a White House trying to crack down on leaks.
DiGenova claimed that the leaks jeopardize the government’s ability to conduct foreign policy and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch a federal criminal grand jury to weed out the leakers.
He also wants the phone records of the reporters and editors of The Washington Post to be subpoenaed.