Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said that the House Intelligence Committee has already brought in some “big names” — “more than the press knows” — to answer questions about leaks of classified information to reporters.
When asked by Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC Saturday morning whether the committee was planning to call up Obama’s former “foreign policy guru,” Ben Rhodes, DeSantis said that he’s spoken to the committee’s chairman, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, about Rhodes but that he would defer to Gowdy to identify people of interest in the leak investigation.
DeSantis, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon last week that President Trump needs to purge Obama holdovers still working in the federal government.
DeSantis told the Beacon that “the holdovers and their allies outside the White House are responsible for an unprecedented series of national security leaks aimed at damaging the Trump administration’s national security apparatus.”
He singled out Obama’s chief propagandist, Ben Rhodes, as the person responsible for most of the leaks and called on Congress to press Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others to make sure they are looking into the situation.
DeSantis told Hewitt that he has drafted a letter to send to Sessions, asking that he investigate the leaks.
So I’ve prepared a letter. We’re going to be sending that next week, I imagine I’ll have a number of my colleagues joining it, asking the Justice Department to look into all these things, but then report back to us whether they are doing it or not, because, Hugh, you know, you’re very knowledgeable in national security.
We have certain intelligence authorities that are coming up for review this year. And if you don’t have anyone, say, being prosecuted for the Michael Flynn leaks, that was FISA material, then you’re not going to be able to do things like reauthorize 702 of the FISA statute, which is due by the end of the year. So I think if there’s no action being taken, I think it actually has a big effect on what we’re able to do in Congress.
And I’m somebody, I want to empower our intelligence agencies. I think it’s very important. But it’s very difficult to make that case to the American people if that information is then being used for domestic political warfare.
Asked if he would call Rhodes in to testify, DeSantis replied:
I’ve talked to Chairman Gowdy about it, and remember, they are doing things on the Intelligence Committee, and they’re doing a lot more than what the press knows in terms of some of the people that they have brought in. And they’ve brought in some pretty big names that I’m not authorized to say. So I want to defer to his judgment about whether that would be more appropriate in terms of the leak investigation that they’re doing on the Intelligence Committee. But I would like to bring him in to talk to him about it, because I want to figure out how all this information was getting out from the FISA intercept on…
DeSantis differentiated between the leaks that are coming from Obama holdovers in the Trump administration and standard “whistleblower” leaks. These leaks, he argued, are an attack on the president.
“It’s not just people are leaking because they think something was wrong with the government and they want some sunlight,” DeSantis explained. “But this is concerted leaks designed to attack the sitting president. So I think the character of the leaks are different, and I think Comey’s leaks are part of that bushel.”
He cited as an example how conversations Trump has had with a foreign leaders have gone through the National Security Council and somehow ended up on the front page of the newspaper.
“And so we’ve gotten lot of information saying look, there’s only so many places that would come from,” the congressman said. “And the Obama holdover working with Rhodes, that’s a place we’ve been encouraged to look. So I want to look at that, because I think that it’s distorted the president’s ability to simply conduct foreign relations if there’s going to be selective leaking of his conversations with foreign leaders in ways that are damaging to him or at least purporting to damage him. That’s not the way we want our government to function.”
To answer his final question, Hewitt called on DeSantis to use his “prosecutorial chops”:
“If you had to guess who was going to get indicted, if anyone – Donald Trump Jr., James Comey or Ben Rhodes — what would your guess be?” he asked.
DeSantis answered: “I want to know what are in those Comey memos and see whether there’s classified information. I mean, I don’t think Donald Trump Jr. is going to get indicted. I think he had a meeting. I don’t think a criminal offense was committed. In terms of the political judgment, I think that’s fair to criticize. But I don’t think that there was a crime committed there.”
He forgot to mention Rhodes.