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The White House staffer who insulted John McCain accused her boss of leaking to the press — right in front of Trump

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/27/2018 Matthew Michaels

Kelly Sadler © Provided by Business Insider Kelly Sadler

The White House staffer who made insensitive remarks about Senator John McCain earlier this month reportedly accused her boss of leaking information to the press in a face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump, according to Axios.

The staffer, special assistant Kelly Sadler, was in an Oval Office meeting with Trump and a small group of communications officials — White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp, deputy press secretary Raj Shah, and chief of staff John Kelly — when Trump reportedly asked Sadler who in the administration was leaking to the press.

According to Axios, Sadler put the blame on Schlapp, her own boss. Axios reported that Schlapp "aggressively" defended herself from Sadler's accusations in the meeting and that other White House officials later came to her defense.

Axios noted that the four officials and Trump were the only people in the meeting, although the door to the outer Oval Office was open.

Sadler was the same staffer who earlier this month dismissed Senator John McCain's objections to then-CIA director nominee Gina Haspel with an off-color remark, saying McCain's concerns didn't matter because "he's dying, anyway."

Haspel was Senate confirmed on May 17 without a vote from McCain, who has been in Arizona since December battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Although Sadler's comment about McCain drew widespread, bipartisan criticism, the White House has thus far declined to apologize. Trump reportedly told Sadler she wouldn't be fired for the remark, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly told the press and communications team that she was more upset that Sadler's remark about McCain was leaked than she was about the remark itself.

"I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too," Sanders correctly predicted during that meeting, according to Axios. "And that's just disgusting."

In that same meeting, Schlapp reportedly defended her employee, saying, "you can put this on the record: I stand with Kelly Sadler." 

According to the Axios report, Trump has become consumed with the leaking problem among his staffers, and officials told Axios that merely accusing someone of being a leaker, even without presenting evidence to Trump, can be an effective way to deal with other officials they don't like.

For the White House, Axios' report is the second time in two months that details of private meetings about leaks have themselves been leaked to the press.

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