WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to announce soon several criminal investigations into intelligence leaks, news outlets reported on Wednesday, as the country’s top law enforcement official faced mounting criticism from President Donald Trump.
The announcement has “been in the works for some time and will most likely happen sometime in the next week,” Fox News reported, citing an unnamed U.S. official. The Washington Post also reported the planned announcement, citing multiple unnamed officials.
The investigations will look at news stories that publicized sensitive intelligence material, according to the reports.
Officials at the U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that Sessions has not aggressively pursued people who leaked intelligence secrets during his time in office, one of a series of criticisms apparently aimed at pushing the former Republican Alabama senator to step down.
Trump also said again that he was frustrated that Sessions had recused himself from a federal investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, but stopped short of saying whether he would fire him.
Top Republican lawmakers have rallied to Sessions’ defence as allies of the attorney general said Trump appeared to be trying to pressure him to quit by repeatedly criticizing him on Twitter and in interviews.
The latest apparent leak involved Sessions himself. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Russia’s ambassador to Washington was overheard via surveillance by U.S. spy agencies telling his bosses that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including issues important to Moscow, with Sessions during the 2016 presidential race. The newspaper cited current and former U.S. officials familiar with U.S. intelligence intercepts.
Earlier this month, a report written by Republican members of the Senate’s homeland security panel said the Trump administration faced an “alarming” amount of media leaks that posed potential danger to national security and urged law enforcement officials to step up their investigations.
Separately, Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, told Fox News on Wednesday he expected Trump would soon announce a plan to stem leaks, adding that there seemed to be some “political holdovers from the Obama administration that are not helping.”
Scaramucci said he recognised it was “impossible” to eliminate leaks in Washington but added: “We’re going to try and hit a cultural reset on these leaks not only here in the White House, but I’m going to be working with the agencies and the departments to do that.”
“Now one of the big problems here that I’m discovering in the (communications) team is that senior people are really the guys doing the leaking and they ask junior people to leak for them,” Scaramucci told Fox News in a separate interview later on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, he told reporters on Air Force One after Trump’s trip to Ohio that he would probably restructure the communications operation at the White House and fire staff if leaks did not cease: “If the leaks continue, then I’ve got to let everybody go.”
Scaramucci said there were no immediate plans to fire anyone else following the resignation of senior assistant press secretary Michael Short earlier on Tuesday.
Leaks of classified intelligence that endanger national security have customarily prompted investigations, including by the administration of President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.
Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe