Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. I'd love your tips and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org. And please urge your friends and colleagues to join the conversation by signing up for Sneak Peek.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told associates he wants to put the entire National Security Council staff through a lie detector test to root out leakers. It's unclear whether this will ever happen, but Sessions floated the idea to multiple people, as recently as last month.
Sessions' idea is to do a one-time, one-issue, polygraph test of everyone on the NSC staff. Interrogators would sit down with every single NSC staffer (there's more than 100 of them), and ask them, individually, what they know about the leaks of transcripts of the president's phone calls with foreign leaders. Sessions suspects those leaks came from within the NSC, and thinks that a polygraph test — at the very least — would scare them out of leaking again.
Sessions has told associates he likes the idea of targeting the foreign leader phone calls because there's a small enough universe of people who would have had access to these transcripts. Also, the idea that the President of the United States can't have private conversations with foreign leaders was a bridge too far, even for Democrats.
Ian Prior, a spokesman for Sessions, declined comment when presented with the details of this report.
Why this matters: That Sessions would seriously entertain such a startling action reveals how frustrated he's become about the rampant leaking of classified information. Leak probes like the one Sessions announced at a big press conference on August 4 have happened under previous administrations, and rarely with any significant success. In fact, they can even backfire – look no further than the leak probe that ensnared James Cartwright, Obama's favorite general. Obama later pardoned Cartwright. So much for cracking down on leakers.
Bottom line: Sessions seems to understand that it's extremely tough to successfully prosecute leakers, especially when they are career intelligence professionals who are skilled at covering their digital tracks.
Last weekend, we reported that President Trump was seriously considering withdrawing from the U.S.-Korea free trade deal, known as KORUS.
Turns out Trump's withdrawal from KORUS was much more than a serious consideration. It was as close as it gets to a done deal, stalled at the last minute by senior officials who raised concerns with Chief of Staff General, John Kelly, that the president hadn't been fully briefed before making such a consequential decision.
I've spent the past week piecing together what happened with the KORUS trade deal, talking to sources with knowledge of what happened.
The sequence of events:
Bottom line: Administration sources say Trump might still decide to withdraw from KORUS, although probably not in the near term.
Above photo: "A crane atop a high-rise under construction in downtown Miami collapsed Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, amid strong winds from Hurricane Irma. The crane collapsed in a bayfront area filled with hotels and high-rise condo and office buildings, near AmericanAirlines Arena, according to a tweet from the City of Miami."
An unforgettable, deeply moving moment on CNN's "State of the Union." Jake Tapper interviewed John McCain, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
Their final exchange belongs on a prominent shelf in the archives:
TAPPER: The last question for you and I hope this is not our last interview. I know a lot of people want to interview you and I appreciate that --
MCCAIN: A lot of people want it to be the last.
TAPPER: But it's my last question for you. And I hope I don't run this clip for another 50 years. But how do you want the American people to remember you?
MCCAIN: He served his country and not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors, but served his country.
And I hope we could add honorably.
TAPPER: I think that we can say honorably. Senator John McCain, it's always great to have you here.
Do not be a stranger. There's a seat for you any time you want.