Congress will aggressively pursue the criminal politicians who leaked classified information about President Trump, they announced on Friday.
Three House judiciary Committee Republicans are demanding that U.S. intelligence officials immediately find those responsible for the leaks using the full force of the law.
“Congress, as the people’s representative body, has the responsibility to ensure proper measures are being taken to prevent any unauthorized disclosures of classified information,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte wrote in a letter.
Judiciary Committee lawmakers generally leave oversight of the intelligence community to their colleagues on the congressional intelligence committees. But they reminded Attorney General Jeff Sessions, heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and the director of national intelligence of their jurisdiction over the federal law that authorizes some of the most expansive surveillance programs.
That law is more than an entry ramp for the lawmakers to get into the debate about Russian interference in the 2016 election — it’s a requirement that they do so, because one of the most controversial programs in the law is set to expire at the end of the year.
“The unlawful dissemination of classified information undercuts the integrity of these programs and jeopardizes their continued existence,” they wrote. “This and other unauthorized and felonious disclosures – past and present – are increasingly casting a pall over not only our country’s intelligence apparatus but also the American people’s trust in the efficacy and integrity of the intelligence community and the programs utilized.”
Leak details of conversations between Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Trump’s national security adviser, Mike Flynn, led to the retired general’s ouster from the White House. Although Trump fired Flynn, who had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the details of his conversations with Kislyak, he urged reporters to focus on the existence of the leaks rather than questions about his team’s connections with Russian officials. “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” he tweeted.
Trump went on to claim that then-President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during the 2016 elections. “The department has no information that supports those tweets,” FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on Monday.
Trump’s original claim appeared to be rooted in reports that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had approved a warrant to allow investigators to probe links between the president’s associates and Russian officials. Comey confirmed to lawmakers that an investigation of those alleged ties is underway.
But Gowdy warned Comey that leaks of information about Americans, even if collected in the course of spying on foreign targets, might undermine support for the programs used to conduct that foreign surveillance. Although the FBI director condemned the leaks, he declined to commit to investigate the leaks for fear of “compound[ing] what bad people have done and confirm something that’s in the newspaper.”
The Judiciary Committee lawmakers warned he might not have a choice, particularly given that a major surveillance program will expire with congressional reauthorization this year.
“Because of the aforementioned unauthorized disclosures, many members of Congress are distrustful of these capabilities and fear the consequences if wrongdoers within the government continue to disseminate information feloniously,” they wrote. “[W]e ask you brief us on any efforts made by your agencies to identify those who feloniously disseminate classified or otherwise legally protected information and bring them to justice. ‘Unnamed government sources’ leaking confidential information, whether the information is accurate or not, is detrimental to our national security and cannot be tolerated.”