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Rep. King: Obama using leaks to build image, trying to be like 'John Wayne'

A top House Republican on Sunday rejected President Obama's claim that recent security leaks did not come from the White House, accusing the president of using the leaks -- which detailed the administration's counterterror programs -- to "build up his reputation" before November.   

"He's trying to be like George Patton or John Wayne," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News. 

The gloves-off accusations from the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee follow Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to appoint two U.S. attorneys to investigate possible unauthorized leaks of classified information. 

Since that announcement Friday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on the prosecutors to get to the bottom of recent newspaper stories that contained sensitive information on top-secret programs. They included reports on the campaign of cyber-warfare against Iran, the U.S. drone program and a foiled terror plot from an Al Qaeda affiliate. 

Obama on Friday assailed as "offensive" and "wrong" the idea that his White House would "purposely release" classified security information. 

But King, speaking with Fox News, said the leaks had to have come from the president's inner circle. 

"This is the most shameful cascade of leaks I've ever heard or seen in government," he said. "It's clear from those stories this came right from the White House, came right from the National Security Council, came right from the Situation Room. ... It has to lead to people very high up in the administration in his White House." 

King, R-N.Y., alleged that the leaks must have been "approved from the top," and accused the president of grandstanding in an election year. 

"I give him credit for a lot that he's done on overseas terrorism. There's no need, though, to put the nation's security at risk by trying to build up his reputation for the presidential election in November," he said. 

Other lawmakers were not so quick to link the leaks right back to the White House, but said the investigation must be allowed to proceed unfettered by election-year politics. 

"This needs to be fair. It shouldn't be a partisan thing. This should really be about catching the folks who are leaking some very damaging national security information," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation." 

"If it goes to the NSC or (Department of Defense) or FBI, then they have to go there," he said. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on the same program that she hopes the two attorneys appointed to probe the matter "get to a relatively quick disposition." 

She said she does not believe the White House leaked any information in order to make the president look good. 

Meanwhile, Obama's top campaign strategist adamantly defended the president. 

"I can't say that there weren't leaks. There were obvious leaks, but they weren't from the White House," David Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week." He said the president understands that "when he commits people to missions, that their lives are at stake, and the safety of Americans are at stake -- and the last thing that he would countenance or anybody around him would countenance are leaks that would jeopardize the security of Americans on these secret missions, and the success of those missions." 

He said he's confident the probe will not show White House involvement. 

Some Republican lawmakers have questioned whether the attorneys assigned by Holder will be able to act independently of the Obama administration. King added his voice to those skeptics Sunday, questioning what kinds of powers those attorneys might have should they come across wrongdoing. 

Holder, though, said Friday that the attorneys are authorized to prosecute violations and that the probe could reach into the Obama administration. 

"I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice wherever it leads," he said, after assigning the investigation to Ronald Machen, a U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, a U.S. attorney for Maryland.