Trump confusingly said that the “leaks are real” but “the news is fake” in a Feb. 16 press conference. He added that he’s asked the Justice Department to look into the “criminal leaks.”What’s at stake is whether Trump administration officials have been having secret talks with Russian officials. Based on leaked information, the Washington Post reported that former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn may have lied to the FBI about his communications during the transition period with the Russian ambassador to the United States. That disclosure led to Flynn’s resignation. The New York Times, also relying on unnamed sources, reported that Trump’s campaign advisers had regular contact with Russian officials. And the Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones reported that U.S. intelligence officials have limited the information they provide to Trump, presumably because they distrust the administration.Trump has said these reports amount to a “whole Russia scam” that ignore the bigger story of “illegal leaks.”Are they illegal?There isn’t a single law that criminalizes all leaks of classified or privileged government information to the media. However, there are a few relevant federal laws that apply to the kind of leaks that are of most concern to the Trump White House — those that involve details of ongoing federal intelligence investigations.”The bottom line is that it is quite likely that eager prosecutors could find a statute to cover most leaks relating to intelligence activities,” said Mary-Rose Papandrea, an expert in national security leaks and law professor at the University of North Carolina.
Southern Poverty Law Center
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