Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said anyone who has leaked classified information, including White House staff and Congress members, can be prosecuted by the Justice Department, CNN reports.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Rosenstein said the Justice Department would prosecute anyone who violates the law.
“We’re going to devote more resources, reevaluate our procedures and make sure we investigate every one of those leaks,” Rosenstein said.
On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a series of DOJ actions to prosecute classified information leaks, among which was a review of media subpoena rules.
Back in 2015, the Justice Department led by Attorney General Eric Holder updated the rules. The moves announced by Sessions could lead to the removal of the protection from subpoenaing press. In the Sunday interview Rosenstein said the review could leave the policy in place.
“Attorney General Holder revised that in 2015,” Rosenstein said. “It’s possible he got it exactly right, but maybe he didn’t.”
Rosenstein said the goal of the moves Sessions announced on Friday was to fight leaks, not to interfere with the work of the news media.
“We’re after leakers, not journalists,” Rosenstein said.
The deputy attorney general maintained that the department would not generally pursue the criminal prosecution of reporters for publishing information that someone had leaked to them.
“Generally speaking, reporters who publish information are not committing a crime,” Rosenstein said.
“There might be a circumstance where they do. You know, I’ve not seen any of those to date, but I wouldn’t rule it out.” he added.
CNN reported in April that the Justice Department was preparing to seek the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which has published extensive volumes of classified information for years.
After much fuming against government leakers, President Donald Trump has praised Sessions’ announcement in a tweet on Saturday. Rosenstein did not reveal the number of leaks the DOJ was looking at, but he did say there is a significant increase.
Jeh Johnson, Former Homeland Security Secretary, said on CBS’s Face the Nation that in the opening months of the Trump administration there were more leaks than ever before.
“The leaks right now are really bad,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen it this bad.”
While Johnson said there should be a concerted effort to go after the leakers, he also floated a note of caution to Sessions, saying the Justice Department should be careful about what precedent its actions might set in court.
“So before you decide to take on journalists, reporters and, perhaps, subpoena their sources, be aware that the courts are going to get involved, and that has the potential for making bad law in this area,” Johnson said.