WASHINGTON — In Washington, leaks don’t just come from the pipes.

It’s leaks of information that have the White House in a tizzy, and they come from sources all over town — Congress, federal agencies and lobbyists among them.

Oh, and the White House itself.

President Donald Trump has railed against leaks, many of them damaging to him and the administration, ever since he took office.

His new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, on Thursday spoke on CNN about “good leaks and bad leaks” and “nefarious, unnecessary, backstabbing, palace intrigue-like leaks.”

Some leaks are illegal disclosures of classified information. Some are perfectly legal trial balloons floated to test public reaction to an idea before it’s formally announced. Still others amount to plain old “He did what?” gossip.

One of the “leaks” that appeared to set off Scaramucci wasn’t a leak at all, but simply the release of public information.

And then there are disclosures used like a “shiv” in the ribs, in the words of counselor Kellyanne Conway.


A taste of a whole menu of leaks:

GOOD LEAKS AND BAD

Just like beauty, whether a leak is seen as good or bad rests with the beholder. The individual who wants to get the information out to the public will consider the leak to be good. But the person who ends up exposed won’t likely agree.

Take James Comey, the FBI director whom Trump fired in May because of the Russia investigation. Comey had a friend reveal to The New York Times the contents of memos Comey had written after several one-on-one meetings with Trump. In the notes, Comey said Trump had asked him to drop the FBI investigation into activities by former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey copped to releasing the information in sworn testimony to Congress in June, saying he put the information out through an intermediary to achieve an end: the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation. Trump castigated Comey as “a leaker.”

During his CNN interview, Scaramucci groused that details of his White House dinner with Trump and some of Scaramucci’s former colleagues at Fox News Channel had become public.

“I can’t have a couple of friends up from “Fox & Friends” and Sean Hannity, who’s one of my closest friends, dinner with the president and his first lady without it being leaked in seven minutes,” he said. “It’s absolutely, completely and totally reprehensible.”

CLASSIFIED INFO

It is against the law to disclose classified information, which generally is understood to mean material that could harm U.S. national security interests, either at home or abroad. Such information could include documents or details about protected intelligence or U.S. military operations. Scaramucci, in a since-deleted tweet, suggested that the release of his financial disclosure form could be prosecuted as a felony. But it turned out the document had been released in response to a public records request.

TRIAL BALLOON

These types of leaks are done to gauge the reaction, from the public or lawmakers or others, to policy proposals. Think early word on a budget proposal or the like to see if something is likely to fly or get shot down.

SHIV

Conway told Fox News Channel on Thursday that “there are leaks and then there are people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs,” which she said is “different than a leak.” A shiv could describe what Scaramucci did to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Thursday by daring Priebus during a CNN interview to publicly deny that he’s a “leaker.” Scaramucci had suggested in his tweet that Priebus had engineered the release of Scaramucci’s financial disclosure form. He also suggested it was a felony leak

PLAIN OLD GOSSIP

Gossip floats around Washington just like the trial balloons, but gossip isn’t the same as a leak. People see things and then spread the juicy details around Washington. In that sense, this town is not unlike any other town where gossip is a hot commodity.


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