President Donald Trump, during an interview that aired Tuesday on Fox News, said he is "OK" with White House press secretary Sean Spicer going through White House staffers' cellphones to find out who keeps leaking information to the media.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly said on the campaign trail, "I love WikiLeaks," referring to the damaging information the anti-government secrecy organization was releasing about Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. But Trump is now changing his tune when it comes to leaks now that those leaks are about his own administration.
The most recent example of the crackdown on leaks came over the weekend when CNN reported that Spicer brought in multiple members of his White House communications staff and had them turn over their cellphones to allow White House counsel to go through them. The concern was that staffers were using encrypted apps, which transmit conversations back and forth. Discussions that occur in these apps are relatively easy to hide, even with a court-ordered subpoena, because they effectively disappear after the receiver reads them.
The White House's argument was that, because the encrypted discussions disappear, allegedly never to be seen again, they violate the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which "requires that the president and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records." Such records are then subject to the Freedom of Information Act five years after an administration leaves office.
Trump was asked during the interview that aired Tuesday how determined he is to find those responsible for leaking, "not just [on] your communications team, but over at the State Department, maybe the intel community, everywhere."
Despite reports that Trump himself signed off on Spicer inspecting staffers' cellphones, Trump said Tuesday that "I would have done it differently." Spicer also denied that Trump was involved in the hands-on process, Politico reported.
"Well, first of all, Sean is a fine human being. He's a fine person. I would have done it differently. I would have done it one-on-one with different people," the president said. "We don't have a major leak process here. We have a major leak process in government. But I would have handled it differently than Sean. But Sean handles it his way, and I'm fine with it."
.@POTUS reacts to WH staffers' phone check: "I would've handled it differently than Sean, but Sean handles it his w… https://t.co/tFGC0MELCw— FOX & friends (@FOX & friends)1488282150.0
The crackdown on leaks came after anonymous sources allegedly leaked information to the press regarding several topics of great interest, including White House senior staff allegedly reaching out to the FBI in an attempt to squash negative stories about the Trump administration.
Another recent bombshell report revealed that now-former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had discussions with members of the Russian government before Trump took office. It was around the same of those discussions that the Russians gained access to the emails of former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
Flynn resigned amid the Russia controversy after just three weeks on the job. The White House has denied that anyone else on the campaign colluded with the Kremlin to affect the outcome of the election. Nevertheless, the FBI and at least two congressional intelligence committees are now looking into what, if any, inappropriate contacts the Trump campaign may have had throughout the course of the campaign.