Attorney General Jeff Sessions has floated the idea of giving polygraph tests to National Security Council staff to determine who is leaking classified information to the media, a source familiar with his thinking tells CNN.
Sessions, a former Alabama Republican senator, proposed the idea of issuing the tests specifically to find out who disclosed the details of President Donald Trump’s first phone calls after he took office with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the source said.
Details of the two calls between the leaders first leaked in January, and The Washington Post published the full transcripts of the conversations in early August.
Sessions wanted to target these calls in particular because a small enough universe of people had access to the information to allow him to narrow down who leaked the information, the source said.
This person did not know if the outcome of the tests would be used to fire staffers, but said it could motivate the leakers to stop leaking out of fear of retribution.
Sessions suggested the idea during a meeting with White House staff, the source said, but it is unclear if he has talked it over with national security adviser H.R. McMaster or the President himself. Sessions broached the idea as recently as last month.
The details about the proposed polygraph tests were first reported by Axios.
In August, Sessions announced that the Justice Department had tripled the number of leak investigations compared to the number carried out by the Obama administration, and said he would not hesitate to bring criminal charges against people who had leaked classified information.
“I strongly agree with the President and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks undermining the ability of our government to protect this country,” Sessions said at the time.
His announcement came just days after Trump said Sessions had taken a “very weak” position on leak investigations.