White House Responds to Trump 'Congratulations' Story

Notes that leaking president's briefing papers is a fireable offense
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2018 10:34 AM CDT
President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, listen to law enforcement officers during a roundtable talk on sanctuary cities in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Newser) – The White House has officially responded to a Washington Post report that President Trump was advised "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" in his briefing materials but congratulated Putin on his re-election win all the same, though the White House is not out with a confirmation or denial. Instead, its official statement is as follows: "If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the President's briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal." The AP notes it's not known whether Trump read the document prior to his Tuesday call with Putin; it reports National Security Adviser HR McMaster did brief him in advance of it. CNN's sources describe a furious Trump and a furious John Kelly as well, with both men incredibly upset over the leak.

Per CNN, it's a pretty small circle that would have seen the briefing papers and the advice within. In a CNN column, Chris Cillizza echoes that, noting the leaker claimed the president also ignored advice to bring up the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on the call. "That level of information suggests a closeness to the President that doesn't come from some junior staffer popping off. This feels like a purposeful leak at the highest levels of presumably the national security apparatus," he writes, and that's what really matters about this story, he says. "Because a White House—any White House—in which the confidential details of a call between the President of the United States and the President of Russia leaks out hours after it happens is a dysfunctional one."

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