When that outlet contacted the unnamed intelligence agency for comment and verification, federal investigators immediately began an internal audit to determine who had access to the document in question. The affidavit says six individuals printed the document and that Winner alone “had email contact with the [news] outlet.” It then describes an interview with FBI investigators on June 3 in which Winner allegedly admitted to sharing the information with the news outlet. She has not yet been formally charged or entered a plea of guilty or not guilty.
The case comes amid increased outrage from within the Trump administration over the flood of leaked information coming from the White House and other federal agencies since President Trump took office. Trump and his inner circle have blamed recalcitrant government officials whom they allege are still loyal to the Obama administration for the surge in leaks, and Trump himself has frequently inveigled against them on Twitter. Others have pointed to leaks coming from within the White House itself attributed to top aides as evidence of hypocrisy.
While leaks are a mainstay of Washington politics and a lifeblood for political journalists, those disclosures have reached extraordinary levels in recent months. Among the most sensitive leaks was President Trump’s Oval Office conversations with top Russian officials last month. His purported revelation to them of allied intelligence information reportedly outraged intelligence officials in Israel, which was identified by news outlets as the source of the sensitive intelligence. Trump’s discussions in the same meeting about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey one day earlier escalated scrutiny into whether the president may have committed obstruction of justice. Comey is set to testify before Congress on Thursday.
The flurry of leaks also caused significant headaches for the government. Outraged British intelligence agencies briefly halted intelligence sharing about the Manchester concert bombing last month with the United States after American news outlets published a series of highly detailed disclosures from the investigation. Many speculated those disclosures came from U.S. officials who had been briefed by their colleagues. After a conversation with British Prime Minister Theresa May during his overseas trip last month, Trump said he would ask the Justice Department to review the matter.
With so many high-profile disclosures, it’s not clear which one would be allegedly linked to Winner. The Justice Department avoided offering any details about the information Winner allegedly disclosed in announcing her arrest. The FBI affidavit did not say what agency the documents came from, what they contained, or which news organization received them.
But circumstantial evidence suggests it could be connected to a report published by the Intercept, a digital news outlet that specializes in national-security reporting, earlier on Monday. Hours before the Justice Department’s announcement, the Intercept published an article shedding more light on on Russian hacking efforts against local U.S. election officials ahead of the November election last year.