Feinstein walks back claim that White House is behind national security leaks

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused the White House of being behind national security information leaks on Monday, but then walked back her accusation on Tuesday after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used her comments against President Barack Obama.

“I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information,” Feinstein said in a statement on her website Tuesday. “I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”

“I’m on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets,” Feinstein added. “I know for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks. His administration has moved aggressively to appoint two independent U.S. attorneys. There is an investigation under way, and it is moving forward quickly.”

The Republican National Committee said that Feinstein got “Cory Bookered,” a reference to how Newark Mayor Cory Booker criticized Obama’s attacks on Romney’s work at Bain Capital as “nauseating,” than walked back his critique.

Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at a Monday event, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don’t know specifically where, but I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it.”

After quoting Feinstein in a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada, Romney called the White House’s conduct during this leaks scandal “contemptible.”

“It betrays our national interest,” Romney said. “It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence. Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama’s Attorney General, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House.”

After Romney’s speech, Feinstein decided to walk her comments back.

Feinstein says she trusts two politically appointed U.S. attorneys, who serve at the pleasure of the president, to investigate the leaks. Ron Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, is an Obama appointee who has donated $4,350 to Obama’s campaigns over the years. Rod Rosenstein, Maryland’s U.S. Attorney, was a George W. Bush appointee.

A spokesman for Feinstein didn’t answer when The Daily Caller asked whether she still opposes an independent investigation into the leaks.

In a press gaggle on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney avoided talking about specifics of the leaks scandal on the basis that there’s an “ongoing investigation, which I cannot comment on.”

“The president has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks and he thinks leaks are damaging to our national security interests,” Carney said, saying Obama feels “extremely strongly” about this.

Senate Republicans have pushed Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate the situation.

In a recent letter to Holder, 31 Republican senators, including 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, argue that these national security leaks may be coming from high-ranking figures within the Obama White House.

“Press reports indicate that there could be many sources to the leaks within the Administration,” the senators wrote to Holder. “In fact, in Jo Becker and Scott Shane’s New York Times story, ‘Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will’ the reporters state they interviewed, ‘three dozen of [Obama’s] current and former advisers.’ Tom Ricks’ recent New York Times review of David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal mentions that ‘Mr. Sanger clearly has enjoyed great access to senior White House officials, most notably to Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser. Mr. Donilon, in effect, is the hero of the book, as well as the commenter of record on events.'”

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has also wondered how Machen can be trusted to investigate anything independently after his role in the decision not to enforce the House’s resolution holding Holder in criminal contempt of Congress.

Grassley recently criticized Machen for appearing to be incapable of making such a decision for himself. Grassley also said that Americans should not trust Machen to investigate the leaks because of his failure to be independent in the Holder contempt decision.

“Your independence and integrity were cited as the reason that there was supposedly no necessity to appoint a special prosecutor,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Machen. “This matter gives you an opportunity to live up to that high praise and prove your independence. However, the way this has been handled so far suggests no such independence at all.”

Follow Matthew on Twitter