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In leaked conversation, Sanders lambasts WH staffers over leaking details of private meetings

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/12/2018 Sonam Sheth

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly said the alleged comment about John McCain was inappropriate. © Provided by Business Insider Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly said the alleged comment about John McCain was inappropriate. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lambasted the communications team Friday over leaking details of a White House staffer's reported mockery of Arizona Sen. John McCain's health during an internal meeting earlier this week.

According to the news website Axios, Sanders and other senior members of the press team were not as much bothered by the substance of the staffer's alleged remarks about McCain than the fact that they had been leaked to the press.

"I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too," a visibly upset and furious Sanders told attendees during Friday's meeting, Axios reported, citing five staffers who were in the room. "And that's just disgusting."

At the center of the debacle were alleged remarks from Kelly Sadler, a special assistant in the White House, who reportedly took issue with McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel, the Trump administration's nominee for CIA director. Sadler allegedly dismissed the lawmaker's concerns earlier this week, saying "he's dying, anyway."

McCain is currently battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

One White House official told The New York Times' Maggie Haberman that some people "gasped" at Sadler's remark. "A few laughed," Haberman wrote.

Sadler drew public scorn from McCain's family, members of Congress, and former Vice President Joe Biden. CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins said Sadler called McCain's daughter, Meghan, to apologize.

Axios reported Saturday that while Sanders said Sadler's comment was inappropriate, that did not justify leaking it to the media.

She reportedly added that the leak had bungled what should have been a positive day for an embattled White House, because that was the same day President Donald Trump welcomed home three American prisoners who had just been released by North Korea.

Meanwhile, Mercedes Schlapp, the White House strategic communications director, doubled down on her support for Sadler at the meeting.

"You can put this on the record ... I stand with Kelly Sadler," Schlapp said.

A source close to Schlapp later told Axios that "her point was that when one staff member is publicly targeted by other members of the staff, she thinks that's inappropriate and the team should support staffers who are subjected to leaks."

Another source told the outlet, of Sanders: "Sarah cares so much about the team, the cause, this country and this President. Sarah did absolutely the right thing in condemning the remark but also condemning the selfish action." 

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