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Staffers Reveal That Sean Spicer Is Tapping Their Phones to Stop Leaks to Press

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reportedly forced staffers to hand over their phones to ensure they weren’t leaking information to the media. Photo by Alex Brandon/AP

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is at his wit’s end trying to prevent leaks to the press, so much so that he’s targeting his own staff and subjecting them to random phone checks at the discretion of White House lawyers.

New efforts to block leaks to the media come a week after President Donald Trump blasted several news organizations for using unidentified sources in their stories and expressed his aggravation over the unauthorized sharing of information by members of his administration, according to Politico. Trump hasn’t been the biggest supporter of the news media, accusing papers like The New York Times, The Washington Post and news network CNN of publishing “fake news.”

Last week, after information leaked from a private planning meeting of nearly a dozen White House communications staffers, Spicer reconvened the group for “an emergency meeting” to discuss the matter, during which he asked staffers to dump their phones on the desk for a “phone check” to clear them of any wrongdoing, an unnamed source familiar with the matter said.

Multiple sources who attended the gathering said the press secretary went on to voice his frustration over the number of private conversations that were appearing in unflattering news stories and warned that the use of phone apps like Confide and Signal, which encrypt and delete text messages after they’re sent, were a clear violation of the Presidential Records Act.

The law essentially allows the POTUS to “take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented…” However, the policy stops short of dishing out punishments for violations or failure to maintain records.

Staffers were also forced to hand over both personal and government-issued devices, according to the report.

Ironically, Spicer threatened staffers with more sanctions if news about the phone checks and efforts to crack down on leaks made their way to the media. Clearly, his message didn’t work, as the information was promptly leaked.

CNN reported late Monday, Feb. 27, that President Trump had backed Spicer’s efforts to snuff out leaks to the news media by signing off on the decision to routinely check staffer phones. Spicer has since denied that the president was ever involved, saying, “[Trump] did not sign off or even know what I did.”

“I don’t believe he even knew there was a gaggle and in no way was it discussed with him or any other staffer,” the press secretary added.

Mounting tension inside the West Wing amid leaked stories painting the Trump administration in a negative light has reportedly led to a culture of fear and anxiety among staffers, Politico reported. There were claims that Spicer had criticized the work of deputy communications director Jessica Ditto so harshly that she was brought to tears. Ditto refuted this account, however.

“This is 100 percent not true,” she said Sunday after the alleged incident was reported. “Sean and I have a great working relationship.”

Spicer’s renewed efforts to crack down on White House leaks comes just days after he blocked news organizations like The New York Times, CNN, Politico and others from attending an off-camera press briefing in his office last week.

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