White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is leading a strong push to shut down the information leaks which have been coming from the West Wing, reports Politico. After realizing last week that a recent information leak came from a planning meeting he had with several of his communication staffers, Spicer held an “emergency meeting” and called the group into his office.
This meeting was more than a run-of-the-mill slap on the wrist and warned about the potential consequences of continuing to leak information which seemed to be consistently appearing in news stories which shed unflattering light on the administration. Staffers were immediately told upon entering the room to “dump their phones on the table for a ‘phone check’ to prove they had nothing to hide.” Phones were not the only thing checked. Any electronics the staffers had on them when they entered the office were fair game for examination by a collection of White House lawyers, including both personal and government-issued cellphones.
Spicer warned them that the use of encrypting messaging apps like Confide, which protects against screenshots of messages and deletes them as soon as they’re read, and Signal, violate the Presidential Records Act. He also gave warnings about further problems should the information about the meeting and phone checks get leaked to the media.
There’s a certain irony in the fact that the information about both the meeting and the phone check was promptly leaked to the media by someone present in the room at the time. It’s not the first time information about leaks was leaked. A memo from the State Department’s legal office concerning the dangers of leaks was immediately leaked to the Washington Post and published shortly after.
The atmosphere in the communications office has grown tense and frustrating for many of the employees there, with reports of Spicer repeatedly becoming enraged during staff meetings by the continuing leaks of potentially damaging information. He has reportedly verbally berated his aides many times concerning sensitive information ending up in the hands of the media.
With the crackdown underway and the already pressurized work environment, the aides and staffers are left with a distinct sense of job insecurity.