It’s fun watching Conway scold others for leaking. From last June:
KELLYANNE CONWAY was overheard Thursday night talking about her West Wing co-workers to fellow revelers at a party. Conway was having an off-the-record conversation with a group of reporters and other attendees at the British Embassy at their election-night watch party. She said President Donald Trump told her to “go out there and say ‘Jim Comey is going to have to wait and see about the tapes.’”
“I mean, that’s basically the same thing as ‘no comment,’” she said. Conway also mimicked Reince Priebus urging White House aides to stop leaking, and wondered aloud what Marc Short — the legislative director — does all day. She also said she is “the one catching the slings and arrows in the West Wing.”
She claimed at the time that she’d been taken out of context, but just last month pro-Trump author Ronald Kessler called Conway “the number one leaker” in the White House, known for lighting into Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, among others. Maybe the coming personnel change involves Trump firing Kellyanne at the end of a Very Special Episode.
Per CNN, the White House is going to extraordinary lengths these days to keep staff from leaking — at least during daylight hours.
Officials now either leave their personal devices in their cars, or, when they arrive for work each morning, deposit them in lockers that have been installed at West Wing entrances. Each locker has a key, which official said take a little jiggling to remove. The staffer puts their phone in the locker, locks it and hangs on to the key until the end of the day when it’s time to reclaim their device…
The ban isn’t based on an honor system. Sweeps are carried out to track down personal devices that have made it past the lobby and into the building. According to sources who are familiar with the sweeps, men dressed in suits and carrying large handheld devices have been seen roaming the halls of the West Wing, moving from room to room, scouring the place for devices that aren’t government-issued. If one is detected, one of the men will ask those in the room if someone forgot to put their phone away.
And yet the leaking goes on and on, and on. Said Jonathan Swan of Axios a few days ago, “This White House leaks so much that meetings called to bemoan leaks begin with acknowledgement the bemoaning will be leaked, which is promptly leaked…by several leakers in a smallish room.” That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. According to Swan’s own very leaky sources, it’s exactly what happened at the meeting Sarah Sanders called to berate staffers for leaking about Kelly Sadler’s McCain “joke.”
Is it really a mystery why the White House leaks so much? You have at least two levels of conflict within. One is the endless ideological conflict between “globalists,” which most of the establishment Republicans who serve under Trump are, and the smaller but very influential group of nationalists like Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, etc. Because they’re effectively at war, the losing side in a policy battle is more likely to “shiv” the other afterward with leaks, as Conway puts it. Beyond that, though, you have Trump’s own management strategy, which famously involves pitting deputies against each other. In its highest form that can produce a “team of rivals” a la Lincoln’s cabinet in which the president brought his own political adversaries into the White House. In its current form it amounts to people like Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski or Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner throwing elbows at each other through the media.
But it’s true to Trump’s showman nature. Endless conflict and chaos are great drama, if not great management. “I like conflict,” said Trump at a news conference just a few months ago. “It’s tough. I like having two people with different points of view. I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go.” It’s entertaining! But with media now ubiquitous and everyone carrying a handheld device that can be used in lonely moments to contact them, it’s a recipe for leak-o-rama. As a former White House official who is definitely not Steve Bannon recently said to Swan, “Leaking is information warfare; it’s strategic and tactical — strategic to drive narrative, tactical to settle scores.” When you build a staff that’s at war with each other *by design*, why would you express shock and horror when the leaks start flying?
And let’s not kid ourselves about “personnel changes” that are coming. If the White House succeeds in ferreting out a leak by some junior staffer in the comms department, sure, he or she will be sent packing. But Kellyanne’s not going anywhere. John Kelly won’t be fired for his leaking (although he might be fired for other reasons). Steve Bannon leaked and leaked and leaked for months as chief White House strategist (he was to all appearances one of Michael Wolff’s main sources) but what finally did him in wasn’t leaking, it was an interview he gave on the record about North Korea to the American Prospect. I’d bet anything that Trump himself leaks to favored and even some disfavored reporters, like Maggie Haberman of the Times. Media manipulation is his greatest talent; he honed his mastery of the strategic leak over decades in whispering about his own exploits to outfits like Page Six. Even the subject of the leak that’s driving his current alleged outrage, Sadler’s goof on McCain, isn’t so offensive to him that he’s demanded an apology for it. No one’s getting fired for leaking unless they were already completely expendable. Or unless Trump wanted them out for other reasons.
Conway ends interview by remarking that she expects White House personnel changes as a result of the sort of leaks Trump denounced on Twitter this afternoon pic.twitter.com/TAiweTNd6W
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 14, 2018