Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod insisted Sunday that national security leaks weren’t coming from the White House while Republicans continued to put the responsibility squarely at the feet of the president.
“The authors of all of this work have said that the White House was not the source of … this information,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “I can’t say that there weren’t leaks. There were, obviously, leaks. But they weren’t from the White House.”
At issue are leaked details of an al Qaeda plot to place an explosive device aboard a U.S.-bound airline flight and U.S. involvement in cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
Some administration critics have accused the White House of deliberately leaking the information to bolster the president’s national security credentials ahead of the fall re-election campaign. Mr. Obama on Friday called the charge “offensive.”
Mr. Axelrod, a former senior White House adviser to the president, said the “last thing” Mr. Obama would tolerate are “leaks that would jeopardize the security of Americans” working on intelligence gathering or military missions.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Sunday that while he had “no idea” whether Mr. Obama leaked the information himself, “The president is certainly responsible as the commander in chief.”
“It’s ‘offensive’ what has happened,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s very clear that this information had to come from the administration. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else.”
Mr. McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Mr. Obama and is a leading critic of the White House regarding the security leaks, added that Congress — not Mr. Holder — should investigate the matter because the attorney general has “no credibility.”
The heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees Sunday said they’re willing to give the Justice Department time to look into the leaks before considering whether an independent counsel should step in.
But Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he will be watching closely for any political influence into Mr. Holder’s handling of the probes.
“Many asked the question, me included, can you have the U.S. attorney assigned through the attorney general investigate something that is clearly going to be at the most senior levels of all of the executive branch?” Mr. Rogers said on CBS “Face the Nation.”
“My question to the attorney general is good start, maybe, but we need to find out if they’ll have that independence.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told “Face the Nation” while she isn’t sure who leaked the information, she takes the president at “face value” when he says he wasn’t involved.
She said she was hopeful the Justice Department investigations will produce a “relatively quick disposition.”