Though Winner’s arrest earlier this week for allegedly leaking classified information to the media may be concerning to some, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone: President Donald Trump has long vowed to crack down on leaks.
As more stories about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia emerged in February, the president tweeted, “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”
A day later, he followed up with a more direct threat:
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time,” Trump tweeted later that month, after his chief of staff Reince Priebus’ conversations with the FBI about Russia made the news.
“They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW.”
It doesn’t take someone with a top security clearance to notice that Trump speaks most aggressively about U.S. intelligence officials after information about his campaign’s ties to Russia gets leaked to the press.
After The New York Times reported that Trump himself gave away classified information to Russian officials, he tweeted:
Trump has, however, also spoken out about other types of leaks. In May, he said it was “deeply troubling” that U.S. intelligence officials allegedly shared information about the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, with the press.
“I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a statement.
Leaks are, of course, nothing new for the White House. Former President Barack Obama’s administration also notably targeted journalists’ sources, particularly by using the Espionage Act― which the FBI is now using against Winner ― to weed out whistleblowers.
But, as HuffPost’s Michael Calderone puts it, Trump’s affinity for lawsuits may exacerbate the crackdown.
Trump wasn’t always so aggressively anti-leaks, though ― at least, not when they worked to his advantage. “I love Wikileaks,” he said during the 2016 presidential campaign, after the organization hacked his opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails.