In October, Trump proclaimed his love for leaks during a rally in Pennsylvania.
“I love Wikileaks,” Trump said, while the crowd chanted, “Lock her up.”
“It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the Internet,” he added, before reading the contents of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign and leaked to Wikileaks.
Four months later, Trump is now singing a very different tune. In response to a stream of leaks that prompted the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Monday night, Trump — ignoring the scandal surrounding his administration’s ties with Russia — tweeted that the “real story here” is the leaks.
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
That tweet comes just over a month after Trump compared intelligence leaks regarding Russian electoral interference to the behavior of officials in Nazi Germany.
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
On Tuesday, Trump was reacting to leakers who told the Washington Post that “the Justice Department had warned the White House last month that Flynn had so mischaracterized his communications with the Russian [ambassador to the U.S.] that he might be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.”
That report suggested Trump knew Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before the presidential inauguration in January. But when asked about the situation on February 10, Trump played dumb.
Beyond concerns about the Trump administration’s ties with Russia, government officials may have another motivation to leak information problematic for Trump. The intelligence community’s findings about Russian meddling sparked a feud with the then-president-elect, who in December released a statement questioning their conclusions and described intelligence officials as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
During an interview days after that statement was released, Trump acknowledged skipping intelligence briefings but argued he didn’t need them because he’s “a smart person.”
“I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person,” Trump said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that.”
The day after his inauguration, Trump gave a bizarre, overtly political speech at CIA headquarters that reportedly sparked concerns within the agency.
“We are not political in that way,” a CIA source told CNN. “Talking about whether we voted for Trump is offensive and foreign to us by the president… Many people felt used and awkward throughout. Of course there was applause, but it was uncomfortable.”
Trump isn’t alone in flip-flopping about leaks, however. In a tweet, Wikileaks itself suggested that the leaks which contributed to Flynn’s downfall were bad.
Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns after destabilization campaign by US spies, Democrats, press https://t.co/vKlX1Tqek1
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 14, 2017
And despite Trump’s complaints about leaks, he hasn’t exactly been careful about making sure that sensitive information doesn’t get out to the public. On Saturday, the president had to deal with an international crisis during a dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, creating a situation where members of the club and wait staff were able to watch and listen in as the two heads of state grappled with matters of war and peace. Aides reportedly used their cell phones to illuminate sensitive documents on a dimly-lit terrace.
UPDATE (2/14, 12:30 p.m.): Trump’s “real story” tweet may have been inspired by a Fox News TV report, Tom Namako of BuzzFeed points out:
Fox News headline at 9:15 a.m.
Trump tweet at 9:28 a.m. pic.twitter.com/EwZ6Rekdif
— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) February 14, 2017
Lifting material from TV news and using it on Twitter is standard procedure for Trump. He’s appeared to do it at least six times since taking office, including last Friday, when he tweeted out a snippet from a Lawfare article about his Muslim ban that appeared on Morning Joe. Had Trump actually read the piece, he would’ve seen that it concluded by blasting his administration’s “incompetent malevolence.”