Donald Trump has a mole problem in his new home.
As the president stakes out his new relationship with the press, he’s been subjected to a series of leaks that have the executive scrambling to patch holes in his ship.
And by all indications, the culprit(s) come from within his inner circle. The list of people with the required access is pretty short.
The security hole has been known since even before the election. Back in October 2016, a package containing copies of Trump’s 1995 tax returns was sent to the editor at the New York Times. The Times ran with a story that focused on the real estate mogul’s heavy losses for that year, and the fact that he would have been able to take large write-downs.
Times reporters approached the tax preparer listed on the documents and confirmed their authenticity. The Trump campaign released a statement dismissing claims that he had somehow cheated his way out of paying required taxes:
“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement read. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes,” the statement read.
In the end, the public’s reaction to the 1995 returns was a big yawn. By that time, most of the country had already firmly decided who they were voting for, and a 20-year-old tax return wasn’t going to change their minds.
The most damaging leak came in early January when it’s alleged that one of the intelligence agents who delivered the president’s daily briefing had leaked the infamous Russia memo to the press. In that case, Trump believes he isolated the source of the leaks.
After obtaining the mysterious dossier on Trump from a shadowy unnamed source, Senator John McCain decided he would run to FBI Director James Comey and tell him everything. From there, Comey handed the information off to intelligence officials who briefed Trump. After that briefing, the dirty details were leaked to the press causing an uproar.
The Russia memo contained allegations that Trump had been compromised by Russian KGB agents after a recent visit to the country. It claimed that he was secretly filmed in his Moscow hotel room, bringing exotic dancers in to perform in front of him.
Trump flatly dismissed the memo as absurd and strongly denied the claims. The so-called dossier turned out to be a fabrication and the mainstream sent it to die a quiet death — but only after it had done its intended job of discrediting President Trump. He believes he isolated the source of that leak to one of his intelligence contacts.
“I think it’s pretty sad when intelligence reports get leaked out to the press. First of all, it’s illegal. These are classified and certified meetings and reports,” he told reporters in a press conference at Trump Tower.
“I’ll tell you what does happen. I have many meetings with intelligence. And every time I meet, people are reading about it. Somebody’s leaking them out. What I did is I said I won’t tell anyone. I’m going to have a meeting, and I won’t tell anybody about my meeting with intelligence,” Trump explained.
“Nobody knew – not even Rhona, my executive assistant for years. She didn’t know – I didn’t tell her. Nobody knew. The meeting was held. They left, and immediately the word got out that I had a meeting. So, I don’t want that. It’s very unfair to the country. It’s very unfair to our country what’s happening,” said the President.
There haven’t been any more bombshells like the Russia memo, but there has been a steady trickle of smaller leaks designed to embarrass the President and rattle his sense of privacy. Everyone has been put on edge. It’s a very effective way to drag an organization’s efficiency down: plant a traitor in their midst and let them burn up energy trying to figure it out.
Another mini-scandal erupted when Trump’s recent phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was relayed to journalists. In that talk, Trump allegedly grew frustrated over the PM’s intentions to ship unwanted migrants to the U.S.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
The mainstream media grabbed the story and ran with it, reporting that Trump was insulting and boastful on the call, and ended it by hanging up on the Australian leader.
A typical example is the headline that the New York Times ran on the piece:
Trump’s Harsh Talk With Malcolm Turnbull of Australia Strains Another Alliance
It was also reported by the AP the same day that Trump told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that Mexico had “a bunch of bad hombres down there” and had threatened him with military intervention.
The President’s response was that the “fake news” was wrong again. He said the conversation with PM Turnbull was very civil. Turnbull verified Trump’s version of events, saying the call was “frank and forthright” and ended courteously.
Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
The call had been centered around Obama’s disastrous deal, struck just before leaving office, to take on Australia’s rejected migrants. Trump addressed the call at a prayer breakfast that week:
“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it,” he said. “Just don’t worry about it. They’re tough. We have to be tough. It’s time we’re going to be a little tough folks. We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
Recent leaks have taken on a more petty tone. A story in the New York Times from Feb. 5 included several insulting “revelations”:
“Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit,” reported Glenn Thrush of the NYT.
“When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home,” the article continued.
Once again, the White House insists that the story is bunk, and that Donald Trump doesn’t even own a bathrobe. Perhaps the phony story was part of another scheme to entrap the leaker? Either way, knowing Trump, the rat will be sniffed out soon enough.