President Donald Trump said this week that he would have handled a leak investigation differently than Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who ordered a group of White House staffers to turn over their cell phones for inspection.
Trump said Spicer has “done a very good job,” but said he would have taken a different approach to finding the source of information leaked from a White House communications meeting. At what was billed as an “emergency meeting” last week, Spicer ordered a dozen or so communications staff members to put their cell phones, both government-issued and personal, on a table.
Details of the meeting were soon leaked and Spicer declined to comment to POLITICO when asked about them.
“Sean Spicer is a fine human being. He’s a fine person. I would have done it differently. I would have gone one-on-one with different people,” Trump told Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” in an interview that was taped Monday at the White House and aired Tuesday morning. “I would have handled it differently than Sean. But Sean handles it his way and I’m okay with it.”
Trump, who was known to plant stories and serve as an anonymous source for reporters in New York before entering the political world, has railed against the media and its practice of background sourcing. Just weeks into his presidency, leaked information has proven embarrassing and damaging to Trump’s administration, in one case forcing the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn.
In a speech last week at the Conservative Political Action Committee, Trump called the media “the enemy of the people” and said many in the press make up the sources cited in their reports. The president has also complained that those in the government leaking information to the press have done damage to U.S. national security.
Trump said “we have sort of ideas” as to the sources of the leaks, reminding the Fox News hosts that his administration has been forced to rely on “people from other campaigns” and “people from other governments” who might not back the president’s agenda.
While he might not have demanded to inspect staff cell phones, Trump said Spicer could have gone much further in seeking to expose the identity of those responsible for the leaks.
“I mean, you know, there are things you can do that are a hell of a lot worse than that, I’ll be honest with you,” Trump said. “But I think I would have done it differently. But, you know, he’s done a very good job. And that’s the way he chose to do it.”