The White House has periodically cracked down on leaks since last summer, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Justice Department is pursuing about three times as many leak investigations as were open at the end of the Obama era, a significant devotion of resources to hunt down disclosures that have plagued the Trump administration.
Mr. Sessions’s move was widely seen as an effort to please a president who has frequently been angry with him over his recusal from the Russia investigation. The Justice Department has been reviewing its internal guidelines on how to investigate reporters when they obtain leaked information, but has not officially changed those policies.
Mr. Trump, who thrives on a sense of dominance and control of his environment, according to interviews with a half-dozen current and former advisers, is almost alway on guard against potential threats.
Tim O’Brien, a journalist who wrote a book about Mr. Trump, said he believed the president developed a sense that there are “these outside forces that will take your stuff away, and you’ve got to be paranoid,” in part from watching his father, Fred, get pummeled in hearings over allegations that he misused federal housing program funds.
But it goes beyond Mr. Trump’s view of government, and extends to what he eats and who comes near him.
The president is careful of what he says over the phone, and always has been, according to long-serving advisers. Former aides say Mr. Trump has a longtime fear of having his food contaminated. On occasions when they would leave Trump Tower together before the campaign, the first lady, Melania Trump, stuffed hospital-grade microbial wipes into her Hermes bags to make sure Mr. Trump can properly de-germ his hands. And on the eve of the president’s inauguration, the soon-to-be first couple had sheets and food delivered from the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue to Blair House, according to two people familiar with what took place.
At the same time, Mr. Trump has a history of sharing closely held information with his friends, often with predictable results. Recently, Rudolph W. Giuliani, an old friend newly installed as one of his lawyers, began discussing the status of three Americans imprisoned by North Korea days before they were actually freed.