The White House is cracking down on leaks. On January 4th, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that the White House is banning personal cell phone use.
The ban will take effect the week of January 8th. Staff will be allowed to use government-issued devices to conduct business within the White House.
The new policy comes in the wake of the release of excerpts from the new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. The book includes interviews with many insiders from the Trump administration and paints the federal government in a state of disarray. In one of the most widely reported quotes from the book, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Wolff that a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
Sanders told reporters that Wolff talked to more White House officials about “a dozen” times and that former chief strategist Steve Bannon had arranged these interactions.
A ban on personal phone use has been in consideration since November, according to Bloomberg. White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly pushed for the ban to increase security. And President Donald Trump has advocated for the ban as a way to combat leaks to the press.
Shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the NSA warned the administration against using personal email accounts. The New York Times reported in September that at least six officials including Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner had used personal email accounts for work in the White House.
Trump himself has also used his personal cell phone for official business. In May, the president raised security concerns when it was reported that he gave his cell phone number to various world leaders. At least one, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called Trump directly.
Banning government staff from using personal phones is an important step toward making the White House more secure. But we have to wonder: Will this measure curtail the president’s cell phone use, too? We certainly hope so.