WASHINGTON, February 14, 2017—In what was perhaps a slip of the tongue, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the administration was not going to tell reporters how they planned to “cover up additional leaks,” at the daily press briefing Tuesday.
Answering a question about White House leaks and how they were going to be investigated in the future, Spicer stated,
“Yeah, again, I think this goes back to the same way he negotiates,” said Spicer, referring to Trump. “Telling people what we’re going to do to cover up additional leaks wouldn’t be a very sound strategy when it comes to making sure that that doesn’t happen again. The President has been very clear, whether he’s negotiating or dealing with an issue like this, you don’t telegraph to people how you’re going to handle it.”
New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush caught the unusual language and discussed it Tuesday after the briefing on MSNBC.
“Sean explicitly—and maybe it was an inartful use of language—actually said ‘this will help us cover it up.’ I mean, he actually said that from the podium!” exclaimed Thrush.
Spicer’s answer and the unfolding of events after Flynn’s phone call to the Russian ambassador indeed appear to point to a cover-up, however unsuccessful it ultimately was.
How to explain the fact that the White House was informed that Flynn lied to VP Mike Pence and could be vulnerable to blackmail almost three weeks ago, but failed to make it public or request Flynn’s resignation?
Despite having that information for 17 days, Trump continued to allow Flynn to attend intelligence briefings and meet with Trump until as late as Monday. Spicer claimed Tuesday that Trump “immediately” demanded “that his White House Counsel and their team review the situation, first and foremost, to question whether it’s a legal issue.” After White House Counsel determined that Flynn did nothing illegal, Spicer said that the White House then moved on to determine whether Trump could continue to trust Flynn.
However, had the information not been leaked to the press, it appears that the American public would not have learned that Flynn had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador or that Flynn would not have been forced to resign. That looks like a cover-up, even if it was ultimately an ineffective one.
Given what has transpired in the last 24 hours, Spicer’s “inartful language” about covering up leaks appears to be less of a mistake and more of a signal of the philosophy regarding transparency in Trump’s White House.
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