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New leak exposes details of Team Trump's anti-leak campaign

When the White House press secretary is reduced to checking his aides' phones, there's a problem.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. SHAWN THEW / EPA
The circular logic of Donald Trump's complaints are routinely lost on the president. Over the weekend, for example, the Republican's latest online whining was a gem: "Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!"Yes, of course. The revelations about the Russia scandal, according to Trump, are little more than a ruse intended to obscure the illegal leaks surrounding the Russia scandal.This, alas, isn't new. At his CPAC appearance on Friday, the president argued that the reports based on the leaks are made-up by news organizations, which are citing sources that don't exist. He also argued -- in the same speech -- that he's outraged that administration officials are leaking real, sensitive, and at times classified information to journalists, who are publishing reports damaging to his White House. How does Trump reconcile the contradiction? So far, he doesn't seem to understand that the contradiction exists.Nevertheless, Team Trump may not fully believe its own nonsense about the media making up sources, because if the White House were sincere, it wouldn't be working quite so hard on identifying leakers in its midst. Politico reported yesterday on Sean Spicer's latest efforts:

Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room.Upon entering Spicer's second floor office, staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a "phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide.Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.... The phone checks included whatever electronics staffers were carrying when they were summoned to the unexpected follow-up meeting, including government-issued and personal cell phones.

Naturally, Spicer's efforts to crack down on leaks also leaked.Morale in the West Wing must be amazing right now.As for the leakers' motivations, it's still a matter of speculation-- if people close to Trump want to let me know more about their perspective, I'm all ears -- but I'm reminded of a recent Washington Post piece, which raised the possibility that "there are people at senior levels within the administration who have major concerns about Trump and his fitness for office. In the long tradition of whistleblowers, they [may be] using selective leaks to make sure that people know what is really going on inside the White House."And what's going on is, to put it mildly, alarming.