Leaks from the White House have characterized President Donald Trump’s first term in office, and they have caused him such anger that Trump “constantly” talks about ordering polygraph tests for his staff, according to Politico.
Former Trump administration officials told the news outlet that the president has compared leakers to spies and even gone so far as to suggest executing them.
His obsession with plugging White House leaks has led Trump to frequently mention ordering lie-detector tests in the wake of major disclosures to the news media, the officials said.
One former White House official said Trump “talked about it a lot,” adding that after watching news reports on his administration, the president would “be angry and ask, ‘Why can’t we stop these things?’”
Another former official told Politico that Trump would become particularly angry when news reports about him were true, saying, “He wanted to polygraph every employee in the building to unearth who it was who spoke to the press.”
Politico noted that were the president to begin subjecting his staff to polygraph tests, it “would be a stark and politically risky departure from past practice.”
So far, officials up to an including the White House chief of staff have successfully dissuaded Trump from such a course of action, but not everyone took the president’s desire to test staffers seriously.
“It was something that was discussed and people were trying to placate the president and trying to show that they were taking it as personally and just as seriously as he was,” one former White House official said. “Taking that line of, ‘Oh yeah, we have to polygraph people’ was a way to ingratiate themselves with him, but it wasn’t an idea that ever went anywhere because it was absurd.”
A former National Security Council official told Politico that following the “Great Leaks of 2017” — which included leaked transcripts from phone calls Trump had with the leaders of Mexico and Australia — there were serious discussions among some staffers about implementing polygraphs to discern the leaker.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the news outlet that she has never heard Trump bring up polygraph tests for his own staff.
“I think the president and anyone in his administration have the right to be frustrated and even angry about leaks. Leaking information, which is often times classified, only hurts this country,” she said. “I have been with the president since July 2015 and can say unequivocally that I have never heard suggesting polygraphs as a way to stop leaks.”
The bulk of Trump’s concern surrounding leaks involved holdovers from the Obama administration, officials said. But the president’s musings about polygraph tests were never direct orders, even when major stories broke in the news.
"The way he does business a lot of times is just keep saying things over and over and over again and hopes that somebody does it, but that gives him deniability if he said, ‘Well I never said specifically to do it,’” a former White House official said.