When details of a meeting that was attended only by communications staffers turned up in news stories, White House press secretary Sean Spicer knew that the leaker was a member of his inner circle.
So, in an “emergency meeting” last week, Spicer told staffers to hand over their phones, including their personal phones. Now, the story of the phone confiscation has been leaked.
According to an article in Salon, a separate source reported that Spicer had White House attorneys search everyone’s phone for encrypted text messaging apps, such as Confide and Signal, which he warned could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
The article contends that Spicer has downloaded Confide on his own phone, but fails to provide the rest of the story, which originally appeared in BuzzFeed and revealed that Spicer does not actually use the app himself.
“I downloaded it, but I’m glad to show anyone my phone and that I’ve literally sent one message on Confide,” Spicer told a BuzzFeed reporter. “These are personal phones. … I also have iTunes on my personal phone, Solitaire, and other apps. Frankly, I think the idea that you guys are writing a story, the idea of what apps I use on my phone, is an invasion of my privacy.”
Long held as a journalism no-no, many media outlets have been attributing information in their news stories to anonymous sources, and President Trump is fed up.
During an event in Florida, the president told the crowd that media outlets must use only credible sources. Acknowledging that made-up stories and fake sources have become routine, he admonished, “Let their name be put out there.”
BuzzFeed News is a good example, having used a source they refer to as “a company insider,” who admitted that Confide’s company policy was to keep users listed even after their account had been deleted.
“The insider, who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity out of fears of retaliation,” read the article, “said that the primary purpose of the app was to be a social messaging platform, and that the security features were secondary. As such, it kept the numbers of any person who had downloaded it, even if they immediately deleted the app or never used it.”
Other Trump administration offices have been subject to leaks and are now making a dedicated effort to take control of the problem. In pursuit of that goal, the State Department’s legal office has put out a memo about how dangerous it is to leak information to the press. Unfortunately, that memo was leaked to The Washington Post, which immediately published it.
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