“DO NOT CONGRATULATE”
This was the specific warning President Trump’s national security advisors allegedly put in his notecards Tuesday before he called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on a reelection that has been scrutinized throughout the world, according to sources who spoke to The Washington Post.
But there’s only a handful of people at the White House that would have access to the notecards, according to two U.S. government officials and a former senior official familiar with the process.
Trump, along with other senior White House staff, believe it was an inside leak and suspect it was coming from National Security Council staff, sources with knowledge stated.
“Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal…”
“The cards are printed outside National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster’s office and would be collected by his team before being handed off to the president,” said the former official, familiar with the process. “It would make sense that the people who handled the cards or the national security advisors who provided the feedback to the president.”
White House officials will investigate the leaks and a senior White House Official told this reporter in a statement, “If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the President’s briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal.”
NSC officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The president’s conversation with Putin, which would have been in classified briefing papers, allegedly revealed that Trump chose not to follow through “talking points” provided by his aides, which instructed the president to condemn the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy living in England. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a toxic Russian nerve agent Novichok.
The British and the White House have blamed Moscow for the attacks but the leaks of Trump’s private conversation with Putin have taken precedence over the administration’s tough condemnation of Russia’s actions in Great Britain against its former spy.
Journalists and bloggers on social media are already looking for the leaker or relaying information on who may be responsible for leaking on the president.
Inside the White House, it's the belief of most that H.R. McMaster is responsible for the Putin Call leak
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 21, 2018
Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman for President George W. Bush, said in his Twitter feed there is disloyalty in the administration and it’s “a mess.”
Who leaks this stuff? This WH still is disloyal to the president and to each other. What a mess. https://t.co/COnvU4MjKT
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) March 20, 2018
Some journalists, like David M. Drucker, a senior political correspondent, and CNN analyst, said on Twitter Tuesday, the leaks are wrong but blame the president for not inspiring more loyalty among his staff.
High level leaks out of WH shouldn’t happen but POTUS could reduce significantly if he inspired more loyalty, respect, comradery & sense of purpose.
— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) March 21, 2018