Inside The Fight Against White House Leaks

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Leaks from within the White House and outside allies have undermined the Trump agenda, according to former Trump communications director Mike Dubke.

Dubke lasted just over 100 days in the White House resigning in May. His time there was filled with leaks about internal deliberations.

“We have two leaks,” Trump told reporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club in August. “You have the leaks coming out of intelligence and various departments having to do with Syria, having to do with all sorts of different places, having to do frankly with North Korea. And those are very serious. And then you have the leaks where people want to love me and they’re all fighting for love. Those are not very important but certainly we don’t like them. Those are little inner-White House leaks.”

Dubke, however, told the Washingtonian that these leaks were quite damaging to Trump.

The former communications director was at a well-known Washington public affairs firm before joining the White House and told the Washingtonian that he didn’t have any allies or enemies going into his new job in the administration. However, Karl Rove, a symbol of the Washington establishment, was one of Dubke’s clients and this led to sniping when he got hired.

“Quickly came the unnamed sources castigating the hire: ‘How does this help serve the President’s interests?’ one ‘Trump insider’ asked the Washington Post. ‘It serves the interests of Reince and Sean, but I don’t see how it serves the President’s interests,'” Washingtonian’s Elaina Plott wrote in a Thursday article.

Dubke, now a fellow at Georgetown University, spoke to Plott in several interviews and described how in April he organized a meeting to bring staffers together.

“I had this thought that if we brought in all the junior staffers and the mid-level staffers and the senior staffers from communications and press, and we all worked together, everyone would feel like they were all part of the team,” the former White House aide said.

In no time a Politico story appeared about the meeting. It cited six White House officials complaining about Dubke.

“In my mind, it was ridiculous, and I think what it was, really, was probably a way for some junior staffers to make themselves feel important, by telling a reporter about a private meeting in the White House,” Dubke said. He told the Washingtonian that he had suspicions about who the leakers were, but didn’t have concrete evidence.

The former aide says he told his wife, “I think I know. I’m almost positive, but I’m not 100 percent sure. Do I want to ruin somebody’s reputation and somebody’s livelihood?”

“If I had one regret from my time there,” Dubke told Plott, “It’s that I wish I had done that in a couple of cases.”

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer described the anti-leak efforts as “futile.” Dubke said that the leaks made it impossible to focus on long-term messaging.

“Take steel tariffs, for instance: in April, Trump signed an executive order that called for the Commerce Department to investigate the economic impact of steel imports into the US, with the eventual goal, perhaps, of slapping on a tariff,” Plott wrote.

“‘It was one of those where there continued to be leaks about one side or the other in order to force the President to make a decision, maybe before he had heard all the arguments,’ Dubke says, an implicit reference to what he calls the ‘water-and-oil’ pair of National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and National Trade Council director Peter Navarro. ‘That fight continues.'”

An example of this is a recent Politico article titled “Kelly’s West Wing crackdown tests trade adviser Navarro’s pull with Trump.”

“White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been increasingly sidelined during meetings and cut off from his once-regular access to the Oval Office as chief of staff John Kelly has moved to impose greater order on the West Wing,” Tara Palmeri and Andrew Restuccia wrote.