Another staff shakeup may be coming to the White House in the wake of recent media leaks, presidential counsellor Kellyanne Conway has said.
Ms Conway spoke out after multiple outlets reported that a White House aide had made disparaging comments about ailing Senator John McCain during an internal meeting. The comments drew outrage from Mr McCain’s family and supporters, but the administration focused its outrage on the staffers who relayed the comments to the press.
President Donald Trump for example, tweeted on Monday that White House leakers were “traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”
Asked if she foresaw personnel changes at the White House over the leak, Ms Conway said: “I do, actually. Yes, I do.”
“There are all kinds of leaks,” the presidential adviser told Fox News' Martha MacCallum, adding that she had spoken with Mr Trump about the issue earlier that day.
“Some leaks exist to hurt, I guess, colleagues, some leaks exist because they disagree with the policies that are being put forth, but none of them are helpful," she said.
Ms Conway said the leaks were a change from the early days of the White House, when officials would not leak information so much as use the media to “shiv each other”.
“That was going on quite a bit at the beginning of this administration and it’s less so now,” she said.
Multiple sources told The Hill last week that communications aide Kelly Sadler had made mocking comments about Mr McCain, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer last year. Responding to Mr McCain’s criticisms of Gina Haspel, the administration's pick to lead the CIA, Ms Sadler reportedly said: “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”
The White House did not deny the comments, but also refused to apologise, saying only that the issue was being handled internally.
The comments drew criticism from Mr McCain's family, and from politicians on the left and right. Both Republican Senator Lindsey Graham – a longtime friend of Mr McCain – and Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders lambasted the White House for failing to apologise for the remarks.
“It is one thing in the White House for somebody to say something crude and stupid and disrespectful about an American hero, it is another thing for them not to apologise,” Mr Sanders told CNN.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has told reporters she will not comment on the issue, but reportedly called a meeting last week to berate White House staff over the deluge of leaks.
“If you aren't able in internal meetings to speak your mind or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you, that creates a difficult work environment,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters on Monday. “I think anybody who works anywhere can recognise that.“
New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman added her own thoughts on the situation on Monday, tweeting: "Sometimes the person yelling the most about leakers is doing the leaking,”